Texas has the highest teen birth rate in the country, and an incredibly high rate of unintended pregnancies. Because that’s what happens when your “pro-life” legislatures cut funding for family planning and tell every woman to be abstinent instead.
Through her divorce and the struggles of raising three girls on her salary at the Sonic Drive-In, there was one thing in Tanya Wilson’s life that came easy.
Every three months, Wilson drove to the Planned Parenthood in her Panhandle hometown to get a birth control shot for free, most times with little or no wait. It was a great relief for a 34-year-old woman who didn’t want any more children but lacked money for a tubal ligation.
Suddenly in January, her relief turned to stress. Wilson was among hundreds of patients across 17 counties who learned that the clinic they relied on for birth control, annual exams, Pap tests, breast cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease tests and other services was closing because of funding cuts triggered by two little-known provisions tucked into the state’s budget last session.
And no, it’s not as convenient as, “Well she can just go somewhere else.”
She’s been pleading with the town’s only remaining family planning clinic, which has been picking up other patients, to see her. She’s one of many who hasn’t had a Pap test in the past year because it would require driving an hour to the Amarillo Planned Parenthood.
She doesn’t know how she’d get there. Besides the job and the kids, her 1992 Honda Accord smokes, leaks oil and probably couldn’t make the trip.
“I work, and I’ve got three girls already. I don’t need no more kids,” said Wilson, who is being abstinent with her live-in boyfriend because she’s a month late on her shot. “I don’t understand why they would close (the clinic). It’s just caused a lot of grief for a lot of women.”
Well, that’s exactly why they closed the clinic.
But Republican authors of the provisions, Sens. Bob Deuell and Tommy Williams, insist they intended to expand women’s access to health care services and counseling.
“Yes, Senator Deuell is motivated by taking money away from facilities that provide abortions,” said spokesman Todd Gallaher. “That is not the primary motivation.”
We intend to expand women’s access to health care services and counseling by cutting funding to places which provide health care services and counseling. Ok then.
It should be pointed out here that many of the clinics that lost funding don’t perform abortions, but they do run abstinence-promotion and sexual health programs and offer birth control to low-income women — all things which help to lower the abortion rate. But nevermind that little detail.
Oh, and this is coming from the state that the Alan Guttmacher Institute ranked 45th in women’s health care.
Before the changes, fewer than 20 percent of women eligible for state-funded family planning services received them, the health department estimates. That left as many as 1.5 million women without help in avoiding unintended pregnancies.
Now, the situation is even worse. But don’t worry — they haven’t forgotten that women are better off pregnant and “in crisis” than able to prevent that pregnancy in the first place.
The rider sponsored by Williams, of The Woodlands, earmarked $5 million of the state’s family planning funds over the next two years for crisis pregnancy centers. The centers counsel pregnant women about options other than abortion but don’t provide family planning or health services.
The health department estimates about 15,000 women will lose access to family planning because of Williams’ rider.
Special, no? Give more money to CPCs, which routinely lie and mislead their clients in order to push their ideological agenda, and cut off pregnancy-prevention funding so that more women will be forced to go to those CPCs (where, notably, they still won’t be given any comprehensive information about sexual health, and won’t be offered any tools — other than abstinence — to prevent a future unintended pregnancy).
The Panhandle, which five years ago had 17 Planned Parenthood clinics, now has two. Abstinence-only education, which is a profound failure, continues to be pushed throughout the state (and, hell, throughout the country). It’s stuff like this that makes me consider moving to the UK.