Well, January isn't over yet and the Texas legislature has been in session for less than three weeks, but anti-choice lawmakers in the Lone Star state have already launched another major attack on women's healthcare. This week, the Texas Senate filed its first-draft budget for the 2015 session, which proposes a new tiered funding system for breast and cervical cancer screenings that would effectively end funding to Planned Parenthood. Surprise, surprise.
The budget draft, filed on Tuesday, would reallocate state funds for cancer screenings to give top priority to community health clinics (state, county and local) as well as federally qualified health centers, such as Baylor College of Medicine clinics. Second-tier providers would include "non-public entities" such as Planned Parenthood, which provide comprehensive family planning care in addition to cancer screenings.
And, of course, it's that "comprehensive care" that makes these healthcare providers targets. State Sen. Jane Nelson, who crafted the budget proposal, confirmed as much during a press conference on Wednesday.
“There are many members that feel very strongly that the facilities that receive that funding should not be facilities that are performing abortions, so the answer is: Don’t perform abortions and you get the money,” Nelson said. “I get it, but it’s also important that we have enough entities that provide services to women so that they can receive those services and that’s my goal.”
Counterpoint: That is neither Nelson's goal, nor the goal of her anti-choice colleagues who have already made a point of attempting to defund Planned Parenthood at any cost -- even when that means losing federal funding for Texas' Women's Health Program, the state's publicly funded family planning network. In 2011, the federal government provided $39 million for the program, which was cut the following year when Texas banned Planned Parenthood from participating. The state ultimately cut $70 million from the Women's Health Program, which the Austin-American Statesman estimates affected 284,000 low-income women.
And even more of those women will be affected by the proposed reallocation of cancer screening funds: According to Planned Parenthood officials, the women's healthcare provider serves approximately 10 percent of the low-income women who participate in Texas' Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program. Many of those thousands of women have already been affected by the Texas GOP's crusade to end abortion in the state, the legislative repercussions of which have resulted in massive clinic closures, especially in the impoverished Rio Grande Valley.
But low-income women's access to basic healthcare isn't what matters to the lawmakers who are determined to limit it. As Nelson said, this is all about attacking Planned Parenthood and comprehensive reproductive healthcare providers like it -- even if that means using the bodies of Texas women as their battleground.