The sweeping new abortion restrictions Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law on Thursday are only the latest in the Republican-led crusade against women's health in the state. Regulations imposed by the new law threaten to shutter all but five of the state's abortion clinics (which also provide pap smears and cancer screenings, among other services), but the new law is hardly the first time Texas Republicans have played fast and loose with women's lives.
In 2011, lawmakers approved a measure to block all funds from the state's Medicaid family planning program from going to Planned Parenthood clinics. The draconian new antiabortion law and the 2011 cuts have proved to be a devastating combination.
This week, the absence of state funds and the excessive cost burdens imposed by the new law sealed the fates of three clinics in Bryan, Huntsville and Lufkin. Of the three facilities set to close, only Bryan provides abortions.
Melaney A. Linton, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, explains what went wrong -- and what remains at stake -- in a statement on the clinic closings:
In recent years, Texas politicians have created an increasingly hostile environment for providers of reproductive health care in underserved communities. Texans with little or no access to health care services have been deeply affected by state budget cuts to programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers and dozens of others that provided lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams and birth control.
Deplorably, the combined impact of years of budget cuts to women's health care services and the dismantling of the successful Women's Health Program will take affordable, preventive health care options away from women in Bryan, Lufkin and Huntsville -- just as these policies have taken health care away from an estimated 130,000 others -- when Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is forced to close these family planning health centers at the end of August.
Ensuring Texas women have access to the care they need to stay healthy, especially women in rural and underserved areas, goes to the heart of our mission. We are making every effort to provide resources for our patients faced with health center closings; however the alarming reality is that most will be left with no real options for getting the basic, preventive health care they need.
The 2011 budget cuts have shuttered more than 60 women's healthcare centers, leaving an estimated 130,000 women without access to vital healthcare. The new law is expected to close an additional 37 clinics.