Tag Archives: Planned Parenthood

Texas Tells Heidi To Go Yodel

I do love Texas. Whenever I need examples of really stupid government behavior for classroom use, I can count on the Lone Star State to supply them.

A recent example, courtesy of the AP: Texas has been an enthusiastic participant in the war against Planned Parenthood, and in 2011 it banned the organization from a women’s health program meant to provide low-cost breast exams, contraception and cancer screening. Instead, the state contracted with inexperienced providers, notably the Heidi Group, an evangelical nonprofit started in the 1990s and best known for promoting alternatives to abortion.

The Heidi Group fell well short of serving the 70,000 women it had promised to reach, and for which it had been paid 1.6 million dollars. Its failure to perform under that contract, however, paled in comparison to its failure to meet the goals in a much larger state contract under which it was to provide family planning services.

More than $5 million in taxpayer funds pledged to the Heidi Group was for family planning services. But the small nonprofit hasn’t met their goals and now plans to serve only a fifth of the nearly 18,000 women originally projected, said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Texas has now reduced the contract from $5 million to $1 million. That will save some tax dollars, but it won’t provide needed health services to Texas’ women.

According to the AP, “The Heidi Group is led by Carol Everett, a prominent anti-abortion activist and influential conservative force in the Texas Legislature.”

Most sentient people have figured out that the unremitting assault on Planned Parenthood is part of a larger war being waged against women’s autonomy–our right to control our own reproduction and make our own moral and medical decisions. That broader assault is usually veiled by rhetoric against abortion (which is a tiny percentage of the services Planned Parenthood provides).

So how is Texas doing? Is the legislature’s willingness to deny poor women life-saving pap smears and breast exams translating into fewer abortions?

Not so much.

With the goal of eliminating abortion, Texas Republicans have stripped Planned Parenthood of funding and steadily obstructed patient access to care over the past few years. Turns out, their ideological, anti-choice crusade is having the opposite effect. A new study shows abortion rates have jumped since Planned Parenthood was blocked.

During the three years after the Texas legislature defunded Planned Parenthood, teen abortions increased 3.1% and teen births spiked by 3.4%  The legislature shuttered more than 80 family planning clinics altogether, action which not only decreased access to preventive women’s health care and low-cost contraception, but led to a spike in unintended pregnancies, especially among teens, and substantial increases in Medicaid expenditures.

Packham reports that 2,200 teens would not have given birth if the Legislature hadn’t cut family planning, slowing the overall progress of a decreasing birth rate. With an average taxpayer cost of $27,000 per birth, the price tag of the cuts total an estimated $80 million, outweighing the funds saved by the drastic cuts – a figure self-avowed fiscal conservative Republicans may want to heed. Other research bolsters Packham’s work: Last year, the UT-based Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that in East Texas’ Gregg County, abortion rose by a whopping 191% in the two years after the county lost 60% of its family planning funding. Similar results appeared in neighboring counties.

Will anyone who thinks Texas legislators learned anything from their Heidi experience please yodel?

What a Surprise! NOT.

In response to the most recent attack of the culture warriors, Texas (of course it would be Texas!) defunded Planned Parenthood. So how is that working out?

According to a recent report in the Guardian, not well.

Texas’s aggressive campaign to defund Planned Parenthood has led to a steep drop-off in access to popular forms of contraceptions for poor women, and, for some women, a 27% increase in births, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found.

In the wake of the doctored videos fiasco, anti-choice activists have renewed efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. In response to concerns about healthcare for low-income women (by far the most significant part of Planned Parenthood’s activities), they have insisted that there are other publicly funded providers who could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients.

This study suggests those claims are bogus.

In order to justify defunding Planned Parenthood, Texas officials in 2013 drew up a list of alternative providers. But women’s health advocates found that the list included radiologists and anesthesiologists – not providers who routinely prescribe contraceptives. Likewise, officials in Louisiana and abortion opponents in Ohio have suggested food banks and dentist offices as alternatives to Planned Parenthood.

Texas’ experience demonstrates once again that fanaticism is expensive. The spike in births to Medicaid-eligible women was costly, and in order to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state-funded women’s health program, the state had to completely forfeit the $9-to-$1 match in federal Medicaid dollars for women’s health.

Planned Parenthood had been providing 40% of state-funded family planning services.

The new women’s health program enrolled about 20,000 fewer women after it excluded Planned Parenthood, according to an April 2015 report by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

The study I would be interested in seeing would compare abortion rates before and after Planned Parenthood was defunded. How many women who lost access to reliable contraception and found themselves with an unwanted pregnancy decided to terminate those pregnancies?

The only way to reduce the incidence of abortion is to make reliable birth control easily available, but anti-choice activists are increasingly trying to restrict access to contraception.

It’s hard to escape the conviction that what anti-Planned Parenthood zealots really want is a return to the days when women had no control over their own reproduction—when we were “barefoot and pregnant”— and properly submissive.

 

Tea Party Priorities

Evidently, the theatrics–make that “tea” actrics–will not end anytime soon.

You may remember that, in 2011, when he was still in Congress, Mike Pence was an enthusiastic leader of that year’s “defund Planned Parenthood or shut government down” effort. It’s 2015, but in the crazy caucus, only the faces have changed. Last week, Indiana Congressmen Young and Stutzman were among those voting to shut down government.

Despite last week’s passage of a short-term “clean” funding measure to keep government open until December, the zealots are still intent upon shutting down government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded, and a not-insignificant number of them say they’ll refuse to raise the debt ceiling when the time comes. (That, of course, would cause a massive default by the U.S. on its obligations, including such obligations as military pay, social security and medicare.)

Given so many Republicans’ willingness to do it again, you’d think the last shutdown (in 2013, over Obamacare) had been a rousing success for the would-be extortionists. It wasn’t–at least, not in what the rest of us call the “real world.”

Indeed, as the zealots prepare to play yet another game of chicken, twenty thousand federal workers are still suing over the last government shutdown, and a recent report by the Congressional Research Service calculated the economic damage done by that fit of pique:

Federal employees worked 6.6 million fewer hours during the 16-day government shutdown in October 2013, according to a recent report, with the loss of productivity resulting in a 0.3 percent loss in economic growth.

In other words, sending more than 850,000 federal employees home without pay for at least part of the shutdown took billions of dollars out of the economy.

Although the ideologues refuse to believe it, most government employees work at jobs that actually need to be done. When those jobs don’t get done, the economy slows, hurting everyone.

None of that matters to the zealots. In order to “defund” Planned Parenthood–that is, in order to keep Medicaid from reimbursing the organization for medical services provided to poor women and men (STD tests, breast cancer screenings, birth control pills, etc.), they’re willing to make poor people poorer. And sicker.

Tea Party “patriots” are willing to ignore the reality that there are no other providers with the capacity and reach to substitute for Planned Parenthood, and that defunding the organization would cut off medical care to millions of Americans.

Poll after poll confirms that most Americans support Planned Parenthood, value its services and don’t want to see it defunded. They also don’t want another government shutdown.

Americans would really like to see a Congress that governs rather than postures, but apparently, that’s too much to ask.

 

Death, Taxes and Attacks on Planned Parenthood

Attacks on Planned Parenthood are as inescapable as death and taxes.

The most recent episode in this never-ending effort began with a doctored tape of an interview obtained under false pretenses . But let’s ignore the dishonesty. Let’s assume that medical employees of the organization were flip and “cold blooded” in their conversations about fetal tissue research—which is essentially the message the editing was intended to convey.

What facts would that change?

As the unedited tapes clearly show, and subsequent investigations confirm, Planned Parenthood isn’t selling fetal tissue or profiting from its use in medical research. Some affiliates, in states where the practice is legal, are assisting medical researchers by making such tissue available when the patient has authorized it, and being reimbursed for the costs incurred in that process.

The availability of embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue for research has led to cures for many diseases and saved many lives. As with stem cells, the choice is between using fetal tissue for lifesaving research or destroying it. Which of those options is truly “pro life”? Much the same moral calculus is involved when transplant surgeons harvest organs from people who’ve just died in order to prolong the lives of those with organ failures. (Most of us wouldn’t care to watch either grisly procedure.)

More to the point, most of Planned Parenthood’s services have absolutely nothing to do with abortion.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky treats 65,000 patients annually, the vast majority of whom are low-income women who would not otherwise get needed Pap tests, breast exams, STD testing and treatment, and birth control. A not-insignificant number are low-income men who come for testicular cancer exams.

The importance of the testing services provided by Planned Parenthood became painfully obvious when state funding cuts forced closure of Scott County’s Planned Parenthood, in southern Indiana, leaving the county without a testing facility. The resulting HIV epidemic is costing the state far more than it “saved” by closing the clinic—and that doesn’t take into account the likely increase in teen pregnancies or the negative health consequences for poor women unable to afford pap smears and other lifesaving services.

Proponents of defunding Planned Parenthood glibly assert that these services can be provided elsewhere. They can’t. Not only is there no other network or organization with the capacity to replace Planned Parenthood, there is no other organization willing to raise significant private funds—as Planned Parenthood does—to supplement inadequate government funding and ensure that women are not denied health care simply because they can’t pay for it.

These recent attacks on Planned Parenthood are part and parcel of what has been called–aptly– a “war on women.” Over the past five years, state-level lawmakers have passed nearly 300 new restrictions on reproductive health access. A report from the Roosevelt Institute lays it out:

In the first quarter of 2015, lawmakers in 43 states introduced a total of 332 provisions to restrict abortion access, which is increasingly out of reach for women throughout the country. Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has dramatically improved women’s health coverage and access. In the fall of 2013, the party orchestrated a costly government shutdown motivated by their opposition to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. And in June, House Republicans proposed eliminating funding for Title X, the federal family planning program.

When conservatives talk about “women’s health” funding, they aren’t talking about funding for abortion. Federal law already prohibits public dollars from being spent on abortion or abortion-related care. They’re talking about funding for family planning and other reproductive health services (pregnancy counseling, cancer screenings, STD treatment, etc.), which mainly comes through Medicaid and Title X, two programs that are consistently in conservative crosshairs.

So here’s the bottom line.

Genuinely pro-life people can oppose abortion and still support the other life-saving work done by Planned Parenthood—which is the only work being funded with tax dollars. Of course, if what they really oppose is women’s moral autonomy, as the efforts to restrict access to birth control strongly suggest, then the deaths of poor women denied access to critical medical care is just unavoidable collateral damage.

At the end of the day, there’s reality and there’s rhetoric. The reality is that women did not start getting abortions after Roe v. Wade. They just stopped dying from them.

Research confirms that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is by providing women with reliable birth control–and the best way to reduce deaths from abortion is by supporting high quality clinics like those operated by Planned Parenthood.

 

 

Pence Postures

Watching Indiana Governor Pence frantically trying to save his political skin may be the best show in town.

We’ve had the announcements spinning Indiana’s lackluster economic performance. We’ve had the new state slogan, proclaiming that Indiana is “a state that works.” (A former student asked the pertinent question: who, exactly, does it work for? Certainly not for ALICE, or for Hoosier working families.)

However, these fairly typical campaign efforts are unlikely to overcome the “Pence Must Go” sentiment that has continued to grow in the wake of the RFRA controversy.

So over the last few days, we’ve also seen determined efforts to pander to his (declining) base.

Pence has been positively salivating over the heavily doctored video attacking Planned Parenthood. (See yesterday’s post.) He immediately ordered Indiana’s Attorney General and its Department of Health to investigate, to “make sure” Planned Parenthood wasn’t “trading” in fetal tissue.

Indiana citizens will recall that the Governor spent most of his time in Congress fighting  the culture wars, and especially trying to defund Planned Parenthood. (Perhaps that’s why he was responsible for passing exactly zero pieces of legislation in his eleven years in Congress.) Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied the allegations, and the Indiana Department of Health recently inspected and recertified Planned Parenthood’s facilities. Attorney General Greg Zoeller, of course, has his own culture war history….In any event, Pence clearly sees the emergence of this phony issue as a gift.

I assume the Governor also sees it as a golden opportunity to mend the rift with his Religious Right supporters, who have been angry about what they view as his “capitulation” on RFRA. (Honest, guys, I’m still the radically theocratic guy you used to love….)

Then there was his ostentatious arming of National Guard troops at recruiting centers in the wake of the tragic shooting in Tennessee. I’m sure he thinks the NRA, not to mention the anti-Muslim and/or anti-immigration members of his base, will respond positively to this display of unnecessary machismo. (He’s probably right about that.) And just in case we missed the symbolism, there was Tuesday’s order to fly flags at half-staff in Indiana, and the declaration of a period of mourning for those killed in Tennessee (a gesture of respect not accorded to the many Hoosier soldiers who died in Iraq).

Will any of this work? Will Pence be able to eke out an electoral victory now that more Hoosiers have seen the real Mike Pence? Or will Indiana’s often-feckless Democrats fail to take advantage of the political opening they’ve been handed?

Pass the popcorn. The show’s starting.