by Max Brantley
A slow start to the day.
* THE WAR ON WOMEN: Thanks to a reader for a link to Mother Jones' article on the consequences of Texas' stripping of support from Planned Parenthood's health services for women. This is the double whammy intended by Sen. Jason Rapert, who wants not only to end abortion in Arkansas but end access to family planning services and attendant health exams by Planned Parenthood. End ready access to contraception and you seem likely to increase unwanted pregnancies and, yes, abortion. From Texas:
The Planned Parenthood clinics that anti-choice legislators booted from the state's Women's Health Program serviced nearly 50 percent of the program's patients. Along with contraceptive counseling, the clinics provided basic screenings for cancer, hypertension, and other key problems. There's no shortage of need: women in Texas suffer high rates of STIs and unintended pregnancies compared to national figures, and the state ranks 50th for diabetes prevalence in women. Nonetheless, Republican lawmakers went after the clinics in 2011, thanks to their long-standing beef with the organization, and forfeited tens of millions in Medicaid reimbursements to the Women's Health Program so they could defund Planned Parenthood clinics without breaking any federal rules governing how states have to spend Medicaid money.
Despite losing its highest-volume providers, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission insists the revamped, wholly state-run and state-funded Women's Health Program can reshuffle all the displaced patients and keep providing the same levels of care as before. But last October, researchers at George Washington University examined five Texas counties and found that in order to effectively replace Planned Parenthood, other clinics would need to increase their caseloads two to five times.
That seems unlikely. The remaining clinics are already straining under these changes, according to a survey by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. More than a fifth have reduced their hours of operation, while others, like Planned Parenthood in East Austin, are staying shakily afloat on community donations. Instead of offering IUDs, a highly effective birth-control method with higher up-front costs to the provider, clinic staffers are now more likely to offer lower-cost birth control pills. They also tend to give out fewer packs of pills per visit, making it harder for patients to be consistent. Others are seeing fewer patients or increasing their fees.
Truth is, many of the most ardent anti-abortion activists like Rapert don't want women to have access to contraception either, thus they fight the national health care law requiring preventive health care coverage for women. The idea is that sex has consequences — for women, anyway.
* THE TRI-COLOR BRIDGE GOES TO SALON DE REFUSE: A moment of silence for the news from the Democrat-Gazette that County Judge Buddy Villines has bowed to popular demand (and, supposedly, a higher maintenance cost) to ditch his plan to paint the replacement Broadway Bridge red, white and blue. A lighting scheme might still be possible, if he can dig up yet more money somewhere to go with the county-taxpayer-subsidized grafted-on superstructure intended to give the span a little aesthetic appeal. Ditching the paint doesn't disturb the bottom line: The replacement span is a short-sighted solution to a not-critical-problem that will keep the highway department busy and visit a couple of years of agony — and economic damage — on the central city.