Now is the time to stand up for reproductive rights and show support for the women of Texas.
Currently under consideration by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the so-called Healthy Texas Women program, which will allow Texas to ban Medicaid funding for providers who offer abortion care, such as Planned Parenthood. What’s equally shocking is that no one seems to be talking about it—an unsettling silence that speaks to the unabashedly dramatic modus operandi of U.S. politics today.
Four years ago, millions of dollars were stripped away from the program because it violated federal law, which states that all Medicaid patients are to be guaranteed the ability to receive care from any medical professional or institution that is qualified to provide such services. Offering a legal medical service like abortion is an indispensable right that courts and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services work endlessly to uphold. But now, with Trump in office, Texas feels fully justified in requesting that money back.
The additional $35 million in annual funds would be redirected from Medicaid to the Healthy Texas Women program, which, according to policy analyst Stacey Pogue of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, would leave thousands of low-income women without qualified family planning providers. Her calculations are backed by numbers from 2011, when Texas first pulled funds from Planned Parenthood as well as any clinic that advocated for abortion rights or associated with abortion providers.
At the time, various Texas senators and anti-abortion advocates articulated their belief that former Planned Parenthood clients would simply switch to alternative providers. However, a 2016 University of Texas study revealed that low-income women who previously depended on Planned Parenthood were unable to find replacement services for reasons that included higher costs, further distances, or insufficient services. Thus, since 2011 roughly 44,000 fewer women have been using the state’s family planning program, which includes accessing essential services like birth control and pap smear exams. Despite the proven ineffectiveness, Texas continues it’s effort to fund a failed program, and “every time they’ve gone through an iteration of this they’ve not been able to make it work,” Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, told the Texas Tribune.
In addition to the defunding of legal family planning providers, the program would jeopardize healthcare access for minors, who would be required to obtain parental approval for a range of medical treatments, from receiving birth control to having access to STD testing. Such stringent policy changes are expected to put minors at great risk, made evident by the fact that nearly 50 percent of sexually active girls under the age of 18 indicated that they would stop using birth control if parental notification became mandatory. Moreover, of those same girls, 99 percent reported that they would continue to have sex, despite stopping their use birth control.
Also folded into the program is the denial of coverage to eligible Medicaid applicants who may not be able to provide immigration or citizenship status within a 30 day window, despite the fact that under federal law any person eligible for Medicaid is granted at least 90 days to provide verification of their status.
Should the HHS grant permission, Texas would extend the reach of egregious and unlawful programs that defund legal family planning providers, create unreasonable logistical barriers, and as Gaylynn Burroughs of the Feminist Majority Foundation told members in an email this week, “set a dangerous precedent for other states whose right-wing legislatures hope to do the same.”
The final draft of the proposal will be reviewed by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and August 4th—today!—is the last day to submit a comment and urge the HHS to uphold the Medicaid law. To voice comment over this plan is to challenge the audacity with which states have been bestowed under the Trump presidency to disregard women’s health, and to shed light on the nature of the presidency that enables radically unlawful acts with sweeping, life-altering implications to go by almost entirely unnoticed.