The state of Texas has thrown Planned Parenthood out of its Women’s Health Program, which is intended to replace the federally-funded Medicaid Women’s Health Program. And it claims that there are lots of clinics available to replace the PP clinics and serve women’s health needs. Andrea Grimes has produced an article and a video report that shows that the state’s list of such clinics is a fraud.
For now, I’m going to concentrate on Austin and talk about the WHP providers there, specifically, because that’s what I address in the video I made last week. When I used the search function on the Texas Women’s Health Program website, it turned up 181 ostensible providers of WHP services within 30 miles of Austin, which is located in Travis County. Sounds like a big number–sounds like there should be plenty of access to care even if one Planned Parenthood clinic there can’t see patients. But for anyone who wants to stop by online and do a quick check, it is an incredibly deceptive number.
The state’s search function recommends places like the Austin Endoscopy Clinic, which is great for colonoscopies but not-so-much for pap smears. It also lists places like the Austin Radiological Association. It lists pediatricians. It contains a whopping 92 duplicate entries. I was finally able to whittle the list down to 13 providers that could take on a WHP patient at this time–and remember, Planned Parenthood is still a participant in WHP as of now, because Medicaid funding doesn’t stop until November 1st of this year.Still: 13 providers versus 14 providers including Planned Parenthood, can’t be all that bad, right? That’s just one little ole’ clinic.
Well, it’s one little ole’ clinic that served 1,748 patients in 2010, according to the state’s own public health records, available as an addendum to the existing lawsuit between Planned Parenthood and the State of Texas. Taken together, all the other Travis County WHP providers–29 doctors or clinics that could actually see patients, not the labs that are also listed that processed test results–saw 670 patients.
That means that one Planned Parenthood clinic saw over two and a half times the number of patients that 29 other clinics saw in one year. And that’s just in Austin, where health clinics and doctors are numerous and easily accessible, and where we have a number of low-income clinics like Community Care, which between all 11 of its locations saw 127 patients, and the People’s Community Clinic (which saw 318 patients), plus the Austin Regional Clinic (which saw 90 patients). Most locations? Saw just a few clients. When I made my calls last week, the People’s Community Clinic told me they were only taking new teen-aged patients, because they’re already overloaded.
Defunding Planned Parenthood is a purely political gesture to the religious right, but in the real world it will make basic health care and family planning much more difficult for women to get. It will inevitably cost the lives of women who would then lack access to birth control, prenatal testing and care, breast and uterine cancer screening and many other important types of medical care.