Texas, Stop Messing with Women

 New legislation could prevent doctors from talking to their patients about abortion.

Oh Texas. Earlier this week we applauded you for efforts to use tax money to help solve rape cases. But it turns out our yee-haws came too quickly.

Governor Rick Perry has vowed not to use federal money to expand Medicaid in Texas, and he’s kicking the Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP) while its down. Lawmakers in Texas have long been working to get Planned Parenthood health clinics booted from the WHP for being “abortion affiliates.” Which just isn’t a legal thing to do, explains Anna Merlan in the Dallas Observer.

Over in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal government is trying to remind its friends in the Lonestar State that they, the feds, provide 90% of the $40 million in funding for the WHP. Additionally, federal Medicaid rules explicitly say that states can’t block qualified providers (and Planned Parenthood is certainly qualified to provide women with healthcare) from participating.

Seems pretty clear to most, but, if the state loses the fight, they have a plan B (unlike women without access to reproductive healthcare!): create its own self-funded WHP that would ban doctors from even mentioning the word abortion to patients — let alone actually performing the legal procedure. The very mention of abortion would be illegal because to “mention,” apparently, is to “promote.”

Merlan points out the hypocrisy in her piece: “These are the same lawmakers who mandated a woman be forced to view and hear a sonogram described to her before an abortion can take place. Their logic then was that women deserve ‘informed consent.’ Except, we guess, when the state decides that women don’t need to be informed.”

Many of the Medicaid patients who use the WHP don’t have a choice in where they get their care. If the provider they see won’t discuss abortion, it’s likely that a patient’s right to choose ends with that un-had conversation. Doctors are being censored. The very people legislating women’s bodies are disgusted by the anatomically correct name for our genitals. Women are being forced to get invasive, unnecessary sonograms. Women aren’t being told what their choices are. Women don’t have access to the care they need. This cannot be acceptable.

Photo: antonella.beccaria