According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the repercussions of Texas’ decision to forgo over 30 million dollars in federal Medicaid money for the Texas Women’s Health Program which provides screening for breast and cervical cancers, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, and high blood pressure; family planning counseling; and birth control will create a drastic reduction in the availability of and access to reproductive health care for low-income women. At the same time, Texas Governor Rick Perry is touting The Source for Women, a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), as the alternative to Planned Parenthood affiliates, which the Texas Legislature barred from participating in the Women’s Health Program. In his remarks at a ribbon cutting ceremony for The Source for Women, which is trying to revamp itself into a “medical” clinic, Perry congratulated himself and the Texas legislators “who stood strong in the face of assaults” and refused federal money rather than allow Planned Parenthood affiliates to participate in the Women’s Health Program. Proudly, Perry proclaimed that The Source for Women “will be part of Texas’ own Women’s Health Program, and Planned Parenthood will not be.” So, Planned Parenthood affiliates that do not provide abortions but do provide a full range of reproductive health services, including pap smears, mammograms, and birth control cannot participate in the Women’s Health Program but a CPC that is adding nurse practitioners to its staff to provide some testing, but not treatment, for sexually transmitted diseases can.
The Source for Women CEO Cynthia Wenz stated that they will also offer birth control but that “[i]t is still on the table . . . as to which contraceptives will be provided” because The Source will not offer anything that it considers to be an “abortifacient,” including emergency contraception. When asked if the Source will offer birth control pills, Wentz only stated that they are “addressing the birth control issue.” Of course, EC and birth control pills do not cause abortions but why should a “medical” clinic care about science? The thing that I find most disturbing about the endorsement of The Source for Women is that idea that low-income don’t deserve to have access to life saving and life affirming medical care as long as they have access to ideologically motivated counseling aimed, not at the promotion of their own health and well-being in the way that most of us would understand it, but instead focused almost exclusively on preventing women from obtaining abortions. Although The Source states that it will offer well-women visits, as of now it does not offer pap smears or mammograms.
What is worse, women may not realize that a visit which included STD screening did not include a pap smear, which can detect and prevent cervical cancer, a type of cancer that disproportionately kills low-income and minority women, the exact women The Source is supposed to be serving. It is frightening that low-income women in Texas are being told, “It’s okay that you won’t be able to get cancer screenings or comprehensive family planning services. What really matters is that if you get pregnant you can go to a CPC to get, not medical care, but a lecture on why abortion should never be an option.” And this is what is being touted as health care in Texas? We should be able to do better than that.