by Shaker scatx, a liberal, a feminist, a wife, a mother, a professional historian, and an optimist.
Yesterday, the Texas Health and Human Services commissioner signed a rule that says that any clinic or other "affiliates of abortion providers" who participated in the Medicaid-funded Texas' Women's Health Program will no longer receive financial support from the state.
This $40-million/year program is jointly funded by the federal government. The fed, in fact, pays $9 for every $1 that Texas puts into the pot for this program. The program provides "basic healthcare and family planning services to low-income and uninsured" people (mainly women) "who would not otherwise be eligible for Medicaid unless pregnant."
Texas politicians, though, did not want ANY of this money to go to ANY program that could even be loosely affiliated with a clinic that does abortion (of course, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, none of these dollars would ever go towards abortion anyhow). This was specifically an attempt on their part to deny money to any Planned Parenthood clinics, even those that have never provided abortion services.
The Obama administration has said repeatedly (we remember you, Indiana) that a state does not have the right to pick and choose who receives Medicaid money. In response, Texas politicians decided to simply forego the federal funding, cheating many people, many poor women, out of health care that they otherwise do not have any way to access.
By cutting out this federal funding, the Texas Tribune posits that 130,000 low-income people will lose access to such services as cancer screenings, birth control, or general health exams. The Austin Chronicle estimates that when you combine these new cuts with other funding cuts to reproductive health, nearly 350,000 poor people will lose access to health care here in Texas.
I'm so sad about this. I'm frustrated. At the end of a week where we have been bombarded by news about Virginia's possible mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds before abortion (that has been shelved completely now), I keep saying to myself (and to Twitter and Tumblr) that the only state in the country who ALREADY HAS mandatory yet often medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds is Texas (today is day 18 since the law went into effect even after it was ruled unconstitutional; Oklahoma also has a bill that mandates it but it never went into effect after courts there ruled it unconstitutional).
I feel (and I know) that Texas is in a dire situation when it comes to reproductive rights and reproductive health care. I don't know why we aren't getting the press down here and I don't know how to make that happen. I'm just screaming from my Twitter feed and crying at my computer.
Texas politicians have chosen to turn down federal money that would help give poor people in this poor state health care simply as a roundabout way to hurt Planned Parenthood. That is a morally bankrupt decision. If this is the extreme that the Texas GOP must go to win their fight, what is it exactly that they are fighting for? I have many different answers to that question and none of them are good.
I am scared for my state. I'm scared for people here who relied on these programs. I scared of the climate and culture that would justify such actions.
And I know, as I look around at the rest of the country, that states like Oklahoma and South Dakota and Mississippi and Alabama are in their own state of emergencies. The national media that rallied so hard around Virginia needs to look south and west. We need that outrage here, too.
I often feel like I am screaming alone in a soundproof room. What do we do? HOW do we stop this? I want these answers. I NEED these answers.
Texas is in crisis.