When clients come to the Downtown Planned Parenthood Clinic in Austin, Texas to see clinical nurse Suzy Campbell, they're coming to get what they've always gotten from the east side clinic that's been serving the community for nearly forty years: contraception, cancer screenings and STI tests. But what they're getting, if they're on the newly de-funded Medicaid Women's Health Program, is bad news: Planned Parenthood can't see them any more.
Not because Planned Parenthood doesn't want to provide the same care they've always given to low-income women in Austin, but because this spring, Texas state officials and lawmakers decided they'd rather de-fund one of the state's most cost effective programs than allow Planned Parenthood to participate.
"We're having to be the bearer of bad news," Campbell told RH Reality Check this week, in a few quiet moments between seeing her patients at the clinic. Ostensibly the Texas Health and Human Services commission should be letting women on the WHP who are Planned Parenthood clients--about half of the 130,000 women in the program--know that they can no longer go to the health providers they've trusted for years. But so far, women have been getting that news from Planned Parenthood itself, which has been announcing its own demise, patient by patient.
"Patients are left in the dark," said Campbell. The state's HHS department has taken over the federal program that, until last month, was 90 percent funded by the federal government. Now, the state says it will fund the $40 million program on its own--and find non-Planned Parenthood providers to pick up the slack across the state. That means notifying WHP clients about the change, usually by mail to safe addresses they've provided to Medicaid.
By the end of May, when the program will officially end in Texas, tens of thousands of women will have to find new places to get their reproductive health care. For most, it's not something they can wait months on waiting lists to get from new doctors. Emily Howell, for example, got her last Depo-Provera shot in March at Austin's downtown Planned Parenthood clinic. She found out during that appointment that she'd have to find a new provider when she happened to come into the clinic for her regular shot.
"I didn't know about it until I went to my appointment," said Howell, a full-time student and environmental activist. Sure, she says, she knew there's "always the whole politics and conflict," but never expected to be told, as she checked in, that this would be her last visit. She was shocked: "This is how I find out?"
Howell hasn't heard a word from HHS, which told RH Reality Check they'll be sending out letters to the safe addresses provided to them from WHP clients, and also providing a call-in number where women can get more information. But letting 130,000 women know that their health care may be in jeopardy takes time... time women who need reproductive care might not have.
"I received my last Depo shot from them literally a week before the program ended," explains Howell. She needs to switch to a new form of contraception because of the length of time she's been taking Depo, and now doesn't know who she can talk to about her alternatives.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to switch to," she said, "and unfortunately Planned Parenthood is the best place and has the best people to talk to about that kind of stuff."
In Texas, the WHP meant one less thing for low-income women to worry about: they knew where they could get timely, regular reproductive health care when they needed it. Now they're left wondering if they can enroll in different government programs for aid, or see a new doctor in time to get prescription refills and screenings. Women with high-risk HPV, for example, may need pap smears every few months--putting their health care on hold mean be the difference between catching abnormal cells in their earliest, treatable stages or having to go through a much scarier, more complicated ordeal if precancerous cells advance.
For now, Howell has been able to enroll in her county's Medical Assistance Program, a benefit only a few Texas women get. Travis County, where Austin is located, happens to have funds available for low-income women. But she'll have to go to a community clinic that doesn't specialize in women's health, and she's already waited weeks for an appointment. And because Howell is approved for MAP for just six months, the future of her reproductive health care is still uncertain.
Sarah Wheat, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood in Austin, says she doesn't buy what the state is selling when it says existing providers can address the needs of the tens of thousands of women Planned Parenthood currently sees on the WHP.
"Everything the state is saying is absolute politics," she told RH Reality Check. For her, the most "heartbreaking" part of the situation is how it punishes people trying to do the right thing--trying to get reproductive health care so they can plan and care for their families.
"You're doing what we as a country want you to do, which is take care of yourself and your family."
Follow Andrea Grimes on Twitter, @andreagrimes
The Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election is the first statewide election which requires Texans to present a photo ID when they vote in person. Early voting started Oct. 21 and ended Nov. 1. So far, the election has gone smoothly, but there is some bad information brewing about what you may or may not need at the polls, specifically that the name on your approved ID and the name on your voter registration must match exactly. As one county election official put it, that’s just an urban legend.When it comes...
John Steen | Wilson County News 03 Nov 2013 Hits:188 Texas
State Sen. Wendy Davis of Texas will run for governor next year, two Democratic sources familiar with the planning confirmed to CNN.
The Democrat, who gained national fame after her 13-hour filibuster over a controversial abortion bill, was already scheduled to make an announcement about her political future on October 3. But until Thursday it wasn't certain whether she would be running for governor or run for re-election to her state Senate seat. Politico first reported Davis would run for governor.
Wendy Davis: From teen mom to Harvard Law to famous...
Peter Hamby and Ashley Killough | CNN 03 Oct 2013 Hits:386 Texas
The Texas billionaire's foundation has come through with a major gift to the beleaguered women's health provider
Thousands of women have lost access to vital healthcare since Texas dismantled its Medicaid-funded Women’s Health Program in 2011 because Planned Parenthood acted as a service provider under the program. As a result of these cuts, and the persistent targeting of reproductive health clinics by anti-choice lawmakers, many clinics have been forced to close in recent years, leaving Texas women without low- and no-cost options for reproductive healthcare.
Enter: Ross Perot.
The Perot Foundation of Dallas, which was founded...
Katie McDonough | Salon 31 Aug 2013 Hits:908 Texas
The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it will challenge Texas’s Voter ID law, saying it violates the Voting Rights Act, as well as the Constitution’s 14th and 15th Amendments.
In a separate case, the Justice Department will also join in a challenge to the state’s GOP-drawn redistricting plans.
The decisions come just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down part of the act that determines which jurisdictions require the Justice Department to approve any electoral changes before they become law. Texas had previously been subject to the so-called “preclearance.”
Justice Department officials...
Aaron Blake | The Washington Post 24 Aug 2013 Hits:413 Texas
In the wake of yesterday's epic fail on transportation funding it looks like state legislators are headed back to Austin for a third month-long special session, and it won't be cheap. As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports this morning, each extra month the legislature's in session costs $800,000, bringing the likely toll on taxpayers to $2.4 million.
Much of this could have been avoided, of course. Lawmakers could have done what they're elected to do and finished their business in the spring. Failing that, they could have set aside inflammatory topics...
Eric Nicholson | The Dallas Observer 30 Jul 2013 Hits:508 Texas
The Texas anti-abortion bill, which threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state and prompted an 11-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), is dead, The Austin American-Statesman reported.
Lawmakers had to vote on Senate Bill 5 before the special session's end at 12 a.m. local time. However, protesters halted the proceedings 15 to 20 minutes before the roll call could be completed.
The crowd of demonstrators in the capitol cried "Shame! Shame!" when Davis' filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who ruled that her...
Huffington Post 26 Jun 2013 Hits:592 Texas
On Saturday, as Texas hosted the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, the Texas House passed 12 gun bills to make it even easier to obtain and possess firearms in the state. The onslaught of legislation contains provisions to allow college students to carry handguns in class and to block any theoretical federal bans on assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition. The 12 bills, a veritable goody bag for gun rights advocates, passed easily in the Republican-dominated House.
Texas lawmakers introduced about twice as many gun bills this session as last year, generally...
Aviva Shen | ThinkProgress 06 May 2013 Hits:703 Texas
Texas teachers were up early on the first day of spring break working on their lesson plan. But it wasn't for their students.
The educators need to convince budget-conscious lawmakers that last session's cuts in school funding need to be restored. They hope to put a human face on the problem of overworked classroom teachers and how it's affecting our children.
Montserrat Garibay with the teachers’ group Education Austin says, "Unfortunately many of these legislators have never been in a classroom so educating them is very important to us...
Fred Cantu | KEYE-TV 13 Mar 2013 Hits:946 Texas
Texas lawmakers are stepping into a debate about whether Austin should require companies to pay a “living wage” to construction workers to qualify for economic development deals.
State Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, said a group of minority contractors told him they would have difficulty paying the $11-an-hour living wage to the laborers they hire, making those contractors less likely to get a piece of the publicly subsidized projects. Sheets filed legislation last month that would bar cities from mandating any wage requirements as part of economic incentive packages, such as the ones...
Tony Plohetski and Marty Toohey | The Statesman 05 Mar 2013 Hits:845 Texas
Adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid coverage under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had seemingly squelched efforts this legislative session to insure an additional 1.1 million low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act.
But a determined campaign, targeting legislators with public pressure and private persuasion, has kept the issue alive by framing Medicaid expansion as an economic bonanza and tax-relief opportunity that would bring $79 billion in much-needed federal money over 10 years.
The arguments, pitched to Republican ears, have carved out a...
Chuck Lindell | American-Statesman 18 Feb 2013 Hits:838 Texas
The party is launching a full-scale offensive in the Lone Star with the aim of slowly turning the GOP stronghold into a battleground state
Democrats, bolstered by President Obama’s victory last fall, have now set their sights on a prize even more valuable than the White House: the state of Texas.
The party is launching a full-scale offensive in the Lone Star with the aim of slowly turning the GOP stronghold into a battleground state. According to Politico, a coalition of groups is creating a grassroots...
Laura Gottesdiener | AlterNet 01 Feb 2013 Hits:956 Texas
This is the kind of story that people look back on after a tragedy and say: Well, that was a bad idea.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas development, is considering arming its employees. From NPR:
In announcing his initiative, [Commission Chair Barry] Smitherman cited “recent shooting tragedies around the country”. In response to questions from StateImpact, he elaborated in an email: “At the Railroad Commission, many of our employees -- such as our field inspectors -- often work alone in remote, desolate areas of...
Philip Bump | Grist.org 30 Jan 2013 Hits:481 Texas
A bill recently introduced in the Texas state house aims to reward employers who violate Obamacare, offering subsidies to any company that uses religious objection as an excuse for denying its employees copay-free contraception.
House Bill 649, introduced by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R), was apparently inspired by the controversy over craft chain store Hobby Lobby. That store sued to deny its employees contraception coverage, citing its male president’s religious objections. But since Hobby Lobby, and companies like it, will be forced to pay a fine for violating...
Annie-Rose Strasser | ThinkProgress 29 Jan 2013 Hits:578 Texas
Registered Nurses, members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas/National Nurses United (NNU) -- the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the country, with 185,000 members -- will rally outside Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center (11049 FM 1940, Houston, corner of Steepletop and FM 1960) on Thursday, January 24 at Noon, to celebrate an important anniversary: five years of collective bargaining -- and the quality patient care those contracts provide --in the state’s private sector hospitals.
“What you see in our hospitals is...
26 Jan 2013 Hits:1165 Texas
More than 1,500 Texas nurses won new contracts through their first ever collective bargaining agreement yesterday. They joined National Nurses United, which is the argest union of registered nurses in the country.
"Texas took a big step forward in terms of patient care standards with these agreements," said Fred Flores, RN, of Corpus Christi Medical Center’s Emergency Department.
The announcement comes only weeks after thousands of Houston janitors went on strike for weeks, demanding that the city raise the minimum wage.
The nurses new contracts...
Laura Gottesdiener | AlterNet 07 Sep 2012 Hits:868 Texas
A federal court on Tuesday agreed with the Department of Justice that redistricted voter maps in Texas did not comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and that…
A federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that Texas can cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide health services to low-income women before a trial over…
Last week, more than 3,200 janitors in Houston called an end to their five-week strike.
The cleaning contractors initially offered a total wage increase of $.50 an hour phased in over…
Score another victory for the Tea Party.
One-time long-shot candidate Ted Cruz completed his once nearly unthinkable upset Tuesday, winning the runoff for the Republican Senate nomination in Texas over David…
Are you willing to pay more taxes and higher health insurance premiums so Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans can try to score points against President Obama? Never mind.…
Early this month, Texas Republican delegates met in Fort Worth to approve their 2012 platform, notable parts of which take aim at the state's education system.
In the section titled "Educating…
Texas climate justice activists are prepared to use nonviolent, direct action to block the Keystone XL pipeline's construction.
The deadline for the review of TransCanada's permits for the Gulf Coast portion…
Janitors call on all low wage workers to “Take Back Millionaire City”
Houston janitors who clean the offices of some of the world’s wealthiest companies unanimously voted today to give…
The nation's lowest paid janitors take a stand for their dignity and their families in Houston.
In Houston, more than 3,200 janitors clean the offices of some of the largest…
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Legislators Who Have Cut Ties With ALEC