I have to admit I don’t usually pay a great deal of attention to Texas on any kind of regular basis. But, when I heard that they were trying to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state for being “abortion affiliates”, I wasn’t too surprised. When the federal government withdrew their Medicaid money totaling 90% of their total Medicaid money, I just shook my head. Such a loss of funds means that, among other things, the Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP) won’t survive.
When Gov. Rick Perry announced he had a plan to replace the WHP with a program of his own design, I sat down and made some popcorn.
Meanwhile, Perry and his Health and Human Services executive commissioner, Thomas Suehs, vowed to create a new, entirely Texas-funded WHP. And Health and Human Services and the Texas Attorney General’s Office made it very clear in a letter to the 5th Circuit judges this week that in their WHP, doctors would be banned from even discussing the existence of abortion with their patients.
I know that these articles may sometimes exaggerate the scope of the problem to make it sound more insidious and diabolical than it really is. Maybe doctors wouldn’t be allowed to prescribe it under the new program, or perform the procedure … but talk about it? That sounds like a bit much. So I looked at the proposal.
(b) Qualifications. A TWHP provider must ensure that:
(1) the provider does not perform or promote elective abortions outside the scope of the TWHP and is not an affiliate of an entity that performs or promotes elective abortions; and
(2) in offering or performing a TWHP service, the provider does not promote elective abortion within the scope of the TWHP […]
(c) Defining “promote.” For purposes of subsection (b) of this section, the term “promote” includes, but is not necessarily limited to:
(1) providing to a TWHP client counseling concerning the use of abortion as a method of family planning or within the continuum of family planning services;
(2) providing to a TWHP client a referral for an elective abortion as a method of family planning or within the continuum of family planning services;
(3) furnishing or displaying to a TWHP client information that publicizes or advertises an abortion service or provider; and
(4) using, displaying, or operating under a brand name, trademark, service mark, or registered identification mark of an organization that performs or promotes elective abortions.
So in other words, the original assessment is pretty much accurate. By this logic, as a doctor, I wouldn’t be allowed to provide information about abortion in the context of family planning, make a referral, or display any information about abortion even if I didn’t necessarily advocate it one way or another. Apparently their definition of “promote” means that as soon as you start talking about something – anything – you instantly support and advocate it. Maybe that’s the reason why Tennessee collectively lost their shit recently and tried to ban the mention of homosexuality in public schools. By fundie logic, the mere mention of it would have made their children gay overnight.
If I’m not mistaken this also wipes out Planned Parenthood from being involved at all. Given that they’re the best bet for low cost women’s health care like STI screening, mammograms, and the like, this is a serious blow for women who need access to these services. Anna Merlan from the Dallas Observer Blog makes a good observation:
In other words, if a low-income woman becomes pregnant and decides to seek an abortion, her doctor can’t discuss that decision with her or offer her any guidance. 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.”
Of course! By “informed” they mean “only given information consistent with our policy of demonizing female sexuality”!
So yes, that’s correct. The mention of abortion, for purposes other than the condemnation of a woman who might have the misfortune of asking about one, is forbidden under this program. That will certainly make the problem go away. Let’s not mention options for cancer treatment next. Maybe the cure’s been right under our noses all along!