Poor women's health becomes pawn for Texas politics | Arkansas Blog

Poor women's health becomes pawn for Texas politics

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I read about this over the weekend in the Austin newspaper and couldn't believe it.

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Texas Republican politicians are moving to slash spending on health care for women — breast cancer screenings, birth control pills, pap smears — rather than see a penny go to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide these services (and no abortions). The loss of federal Medicaid money means some 130,000 women will be affected.

The costs, of course, will be enormous in pain, undiagnosed illness and higher treatment costs for those problems that are missed, along with unintended pregnancies.

You'll remember that Sen. Jason Rapert made a brief bit of noise about money in Arkansas that goes to Planned Parenthood for family planning disease prevention, including condom distribution. (Also more here.) At the moment, the General Assembly isn't ready to have a vote on choosing women's health over hatred for an organization that serves women well. But this year's elections could very well be about exactly that proposition and family planning in general.

Nationally, the newest target is Title X, the main federal family planning program. All four Republican presidential candidates support eliminating Title X, which was created in 1970 with Republican support from President Nixon and the elder George Bush, then a congressman.

Like other federal financing, Title X does not pay for abortions. Only some of it covers birth control. Title X also provides money for cervical and breast cancer screening, testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases, adolescent abstinence counseling, infertility counseling and other services.

Planned Parenthood receives about a quarter of Title X’s $300 million budget and sees about a third of Title X patients. The remaining money goes to clinics, community health centers, hospitals and state agencies.

Mitt Romney’s fiscal plan proposes eliminating Title X because it “subsidizes family planning programs that benefit abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.”

Rick Santorum, in a recent debate, acknowledged, to boos, that in Congress he voted for appropriations bills that included Title X money. He pledged to rectify that if elected, saying, “I’ve always opposed Title X funding.”

President Obama supports Title X, which serves five million low-income people.

The war on contraception is neither a figment of the imagination nor a joking matter.

NOTE CORRECTION: Rapert targeted federal pass-through money on combatting sexual diseases, particularly to get at its use for condoms.

UPDATE FROM THE REPUBLICAN SEX POSSE WATCH: Utah has become the first state to pass law banning mention of birth control in sex education for either pregnancy or disease prevention and also bars mention of homosexuality. The only thing you can say about sex in Utah classrooms is NO. This, too, could easily represent Arkansas's future depending on 2012 elections.

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