Planned Parenthood representatives rue loss of women’s health care in abortion fight
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 19:03
Women in Texas are losing health care options because of family planning cuts, a ultrasound bill and abortion politics.
Representatives of Planned Parenthood, a family planning network discussed threats in "Moving Forward: Standing Strong for Women's Health Care," March 8 in the Women’s History Symposium.
Mara Posada, strategic communications manager at Planned Parenthood of San Antonio, said Planned Parenthood provides women’s health care and provides information that people need to plan their families and futures.
According to its website, Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive health care, education and information to about 5 million women, men and adolescents worldwide each year.
Birth control services also are offered along with education and an opportunity to discuss options.
Centers offer pelvic exams, pap tests, screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer, and testing for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
General health care services such as anemia testing, cholesterol screening, diabetes screening, physical exams, flu and tetanus vaccines, and thyroid screenings are available.
The organization also offers abortion services, which account for only about 3 percent of services offered. Those services, however, remain controversial.
Kathy Armstrong, Planned Parenthood board member and exhibitions coordinator for the Southwest School of Art, said the local organization operates 10 health centers that serve 30,000 women in this city, as well as Kingsville, Harlingen and Brownsville.
On Aug. 15, the Texas Tribune reported lawmakers slashed family planning funding by two-thirds.
The Department of State Health Services confirmed that the Legislature reduced its overall funding for family planning programs by $73.6 million, from $111.5 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to $37.9 million in the next biennium.
According to the online Texas Tribune, Planned Parenthood received the second largest share, about 25 percent, of family planning contract dollars, equaling about $12 million last year.
Posada said the Texas Legislature rejected the use of family planning contracts for any organization that offers abortion services.
Armstrong said in September, two-thirds of funding for the Texas Department of State Health Services was cut. “Planned Parenthood did not receive any contract renewals last year,” she said.
Armstrong said the Texas Legislature passed a bill that requires women to undergo a vaginal probe ultrasound before seeking an abortion.
Texas law doesn’t specify a vaginal probe ultrasound, but, to pick up the heartbeat and describe the fetus at the early stage of pregnancy when most women seek abortions, a vaginal probe is required.
The sonogram must be performed at least 24 hours prior to an abortion, and the doctor is required to play the heartbeat aloud, describe the fetus and show the patient the image.
Posada said a woman can cover her ears or speak loudly when the heartbeat is audible and the doctor describes the fetus.
“This is not the jelly on the belly that most of you think. This is government intrusion at its best,” Armstrong said, quoting Rep. Carol Alvardo, D-Houston.
“Instead of you and your doctor deciding if this is medically necessary for you, this is the government saying, ‘you’re doing it,’” Armstrong said.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit last summer to keep Texas from implementing the law.
The Houston Chronicle reported the bill took effect Feb. 7 when judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a temporary injunction that kept the law from taking effect Oct. 1.
According to the Texas Tribune, the abortion sonogram bill passed with limited national fanfare, but it came in the wake of several other efforts to defund Planned Parenthood statewide.
Armstrong said Planned Parenthood will comply with the law, and because of that, she is proud to be part of the organization.
“It will comply with the law,” she said. “It’s not happy about it, but it certainly will make every effort to do everything to keep being able to provide a service.”
Posada said Texas has the strongest pre-abortion ultrasound bill in the country.
“There are other ultrasound laws; however, those laws give women the option to hear or see the image if they would like to. This one is not an option, this one is required,” she said.
Virginia passed an ultrasound bill in February, which requires women to submit to vaginal probe ultrasounds. Women who live within 100 miles of the clinic must wait 24 hours after the ultrasound before having an abortion. That law goes into effect July 1.
Opponents have referred to the Virginia law as “state rape.” Opponents in Texas have also referred to the ultrasound requirement in similar terms, while the Gary Trudeau comic strip “Doonesbury” has been bumped from newspapers for stirring the controversy.
The San Antonio Express-News has temporarily moved the strip to the editorial page while the ultrasound rape story line continues.
The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights through research, policy analysis and education, reports six states — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi — require ultrasounds in which the provider must offer the patient the opportunity to view the image.
North Carolina and Oklahoma have passed similar laws, but they are unenforceable, pending a court decision.
Eight states — Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia — require that a woman have the opportunity to view the image if the ultrasound is performed as part of preparation for an abortion.