By MARY SANCHEZ | OTHER OPINION
The Hartford Courant
7:11 PM EST, January 4, 2013
For those who believe that the "war on women" amounts to nothing more than a campaign slogan, behold Texas.
The Lone Star state kicked off its revamped women's health program Jan. 1 by cutting off nearly 50,000 women from their current health care providers. Happy New Year, ladies.
Go find your breast cancer screenings, your cervical cancer checks, your contraception elsewhere. If you can afford it, that is. And if you can find a doctor capable of passing the new litmus test for morality in Texas.
This slap to women was delivered by Gov. Rick Perry. The Republican governor has been blinded to reality in his quest to trample Planned Parenthood, an organization at the center of a new front in the abortion wars.
Perry wants any doctor who can be connected even remotely to an abortion provider to be barred from receiving state reimbursement — even if that doctor isn't performing abortions.
Texas does not allow state funds to be used for abortions. That's a policy that most people find fair. However, Texas has allowed state funds to be used for women's health services other than abortion that Planned Parenthood provides.
In Texas, about 48,000 low-income women yearly depend on Planned Parenthood for a range of services under the Texas Women's Health Program. In fact, until Jan. 1, Planned Parenthood served nearly half of the women receiving care under the program.
But no more. In 2011, the Texas legislature passed the so-called affiliate rule that barred any doctor viewed to be "affiliated" with an advocate of abortion from participating in state-funded programs. That means that Planned Parenthood can no longer be a part of the state program.
The new rule amounts to blackballing physicians. Planned Parenthood has sued on the grounds that the rule is unconstitutional, in addition to conflicting with other state laws. Unfortunately, in late December, a state district judge upheld the state's ban while the case continues through the courts.
That means tens of thousands of poor women must find their care elsewhere. Because the affiliate rule pits Texas against the federal government, the state is also declining $9 in federal funds for every $1 it spends for such programs, or about $30 million annually.
Gov. Perry says that's just fine. Texas will take care of its own
Except that it isn't.
Texas, like many states, has a shortage of primary care doctors. This will likely make it more difficult for low-income women to find health services that Planned Parenthood used to provide. Moreover, Texas has made drastic cuts to family planning funding in recent years, to $37 million from $111 million for the 2012-2013 biennium, according to Texas Weekly. As a result of such cuts, more than 50 clinics serving low-income clients have closed.
If the state's goal is to decrease abortions, it should focus on increasing women's access to contraception and reproductive wellness — not limiting it. Gov. Perry might not like it, but Planned Parenthood is among the most successful organizations at fulfilling that role. One in five American women goes to Planned Parenthood during her reproductive lifetime. For many women, the appointment is to ensure their wellness to bring a baby into this world, not to get an abortion.
Unintended pregnancies, which this new law is sure to increase, will cost the state in future care of those children. Taxpayers shouldn't be expected to pick up the extra costs so that the governor and the state legislature can preen about their moral uprightness. Gov. Perry's cloaks his crusade against Planned Parenthood in Christian concern for unborn babies. Yet he actually might be increasing abortions by limiting access to family planning.
His patriarchal attitude is also more than a little offensive. It tells women, we know what is best for you, which doctors are morally fit to provide health care. Never mind that we're also making it more difficult for you to find that care.
Holier than thou, and wholly unconcerned about your welfare. That's Rick Perry and the faith-n-values party.
Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Her email address is email@example.com.
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