Texas Planned Parenthood Targeted By Legislators In A Move That Would Severely Affect Programs For Low-Income Women

In Texas, uninsured women can enroll in the Medicaid for Breast and Cervical Cancer Program for low-cost cancer screenings, diagnosis, and treatment. Planned Parenthood Texas has long partnered with the Medicaid program, serving an estimated 3,300 women in 2014 alone. But in their long-held fight to block funding for the women's health organization, Texas lawmakers are once again targeting Planned Parenthood — a move that might have a dramatic impact on low-income women.

The Texas Senate introduced a new state budget that could significantly reduce funding from Planned Parenthood for life-saving breast cancer and cervical screenings. The proposed budget would instate a "tiered" funding system that would place Planned Parenthood, along with other non-profit or privately ran clinics, way down at the bottom of the list. According to The Dallas Morning News, the Texas state senators want to ensure women's health clinics specializing in family planning services receive the lowest possible funding in the breast and cervical cancer program.

The suggested budget cuts are hardly coincidental. The Dallas Morning News reported that prominent anti-abortion leader Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, has been a vocal advocate of the tiered funding plan, indicating a politically charged motivation behind the proposal.

Nor would it be the first time the state has barred Planned Parenthood from receiving state Medicaid funding. In 2011, Texas legislators ousted Planned Parenthood — and any clinic or organization with ties to abortion providers — from the Women's Health Program, which provides low-income women with comprehensive health care and preventative services. Then-Gov. Rick Perry applauded the decision, saying in 2013 that it was "great news for Texas women" and proved that Planned Parenthood was "more concerned with obtaining taxpayer money than with helping women get care."

When Texas cut Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program, around 300,000 low-income women were severely impacted. Now, Planned Parenthood estimates that at least 3,000 women will immediately lose access to breast and cervical cancer screenings throughout the state, and tens of thousands more would be affected over the years. It also doesn't help that in some areas of the Lone Star State, Planned Parenthood is the only health provider in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. In a statement sent to Bustle, Ken Lambrecht, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, says:

Once again, the Texas Legislature is playing politics with women’s health — and with some of the most vulnerable women in our community — uninsured women facing battles with breast or cervical cancer.
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Discussion also turned personal on the Texas Senate floor on Wednesday when Sen. Sylvia Garcia shared a story about her niece who died of cervical cancer last year. "Tragically, my family and I are not alone," Garcia said. "Too many women and families face tragedy and heartbreak from this disease."

Texas not only has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the nation, but also has the ninth highest cervical cancer death rate. "We can do better," Garcia told her colleagues. "We need to make sure that women have access to crucial cancer screenings and to trusted providers of that care."

Diane Dunn, a Planned Parenthood Waco patient and cancer survivor who was uninsured when she discovered a lump in her breast, added in a statement that Planned Parenthood was her only option:

Planned Parenthood helped me when I could not get in anywhere else for breast cancer treatment – no one else would help me. They sent me for a mammogram, a sonogram, and biopsies and the surgeon said I needed to start chemo immediately – that I was at Stage 3. … I’m now cancer free and am anticipating going back to work part-time soon. I don’t know where I’d be without Planned Parenthood.

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