Holding women’s health hostage is no way to legislate

Photo by John Jordan

Last month, for the eighth time since 2007, Republicans in Congress voted on legislation to cut funding for women’s preventive health services. For the eighth time these extremist efforts failed.

As Congress prepares to reconvene in September, House Republicans cannot hold the fiscal purse of our nation captive in favor of reviving the failed fight to defund Planned Parenthood. The focus should instead be on passing legislation that funds necessary government operations and invests in our nation’s highways, creates jobs and protects future generations of voters’ access to the polls.

Unfortunately, partisan efforts in Texas to defund Planned Parenthood and block women’s access to health care have passed time and again. The recent removal of Planned Parenthood from the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program is just the latest example of how Texas legislators harm women by blocking their access to health care. Texas women are truly paying the price.

From 2007 to 2011, Texas participated in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, a successful joint initiative with the federal government that cost Texas taxpayers ten cents for every dollar spent. Washington picked up the rest. This program saved Texas millions in Medicaid prenatal and delivery costs through the prevention of unplanned pregnancies.

Federal and state law already prohibited taxpayer funding for abortion. Nevertheless, in 2011 the Texas Legislature banned Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program, a move that prompted the feds to end the partnership. Under Gov. Rick Perry’s leadership, state health officials rolled out a revised program, the Texas Women’s Health Program, with Texas taxpayers paying 100 percent of the costs. As of 2013, 30,000 fewer women were receiving care each year, according to the state’s own reports — yet Texans are paying ten times the price.

More than 85 percent of the care Planned Parenthood provides nationally is preventive. Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood prevent access to routine and often lifesaving care and family planning services for 2.7 million patients every year.

Texas needs more health care providers to serve the medical needs of all Texans. The current crisis facing Texas women is not just about the poor women who relied on the Medicaid Women’s Health Program — or those who visited Planned Parenthood clinics under the state’s breast cancer screening program. It’s the combined effect of numerous bad policies that have worked together to systematically deny timely, convenient access to medical care to Texas women.

It is time to quit holding women’s health hostage any time elected officials feel like they can use it as a bargaining chip for other unrelated legislative action. Simply put, political attacks on Planned Parenthood are unwarranted attacks on America’s low-income women.

As a member of Congress, I will not tolerate attacks against America’s mothers, daughters, sisters and wives. I stand with Planned Parenthood, its patients and the majority of Americans who support its operations, and will not vote with the extremist right-wing politicians who want to strip its funding.  I know this funding helps to ensure the continuation of care for women at the Planned Parenthood health center in my district.

Representing and protecting citizens in the 33rd District of Texas and across America includes protecting their access to basic health care. We all want women to have access to the care they need to stay healthy for their families. I choose to put people before politics and stand with Planned Parenthood. 

Marc Veasey

U.S. Representative, D-Fort Worth