As the Republican war on reproductive health continues, Texas has joined Indiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Kansas in rewriting its laws to deny funding to Planned Parenthood.
Texas Messes with Health Care
The Texas Tribune reports that Republican lawmakers have reworded the laws regarding Medicaid spending in order to bar any funding from reaching Planned Parenthood. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott claims that the new law is Constitutional, and the commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Department signed off on the law today. The new law will take effect on March 14th.
While Texas seems convinced of the validity of this law, the Obama administration has already disagreed. Texas’s Women’s Health Program was given a three-month extension by the federal government after officials at the HHS said that the state’s new rules violated the Social Security Act. The extension expires in March when -as it stands now- the federal funding for the program will be cut off completely. It is unclear how Texas plans to sustain the women’s health initiative, as the state receives $9 of federal money for every $1 of state money. By going forward with the legislation, Texas seems to be forgoing the $40 million of federal funding the it receives annually for its Medicaid program.
Not only will Texas inevitably be forced to spend more money to subsidize health care by turning down federal money, but it is likely the state will soon find itself in court. The ACLU has already sued the state of Indiana for a similar law to defund Planned Parenthood at the state level, and won an injunction to keep the new law from being enforced. A more permanent decision on a state’s right (or lack thereof) to accept federal money without following federal laws will take place in the Indiana Supreme Court in what will likely be a costly battle for Indiana. With a similar lawsuit from the ACLU in Kansas over new laws prohibiting insurers from covering elective abortion, legal action seems to be more of a probability than a possibility.
With states like Indiana and Texas still struggling with the effects of the recession – and bleak economic forecasts for 2012, it is a wonder that lawmakers have risked sending their states deeper into the hole financially in an attempt to stonewall reproductive health.
It seems plausible that this decision may be a ploy to force the Obama administration’s hand when it comes to subsidizing reproductive health. Texas’s HHS is planning to ask the federal branch for another extension on the program, and it will be up to the federal office to decide whether or not to uphold the laws regarding Medicaid funding and compliance.
Texas also has the distinction of having virtually no viable alternatives to Planned Parenthood for affordable reproductive health care, despite the continued mantra of conservatives that there are “plenty of places that do what PP does without abortion”.
There is no good option for the Obama administration, which has recently claimed a continued commitment to reproductive choice and accessibility to affordable health care as an integral part of its legacy in the face of critics. If the administration stands firm, 130,000 people will lose access to their reproductive health care. While this seems like it should be a bargaining chip against anti-choice extremists in Texas’s legislature, those delegates have made it clear that they simply do not care about reproductive health care.
If the administration caves and allows Texas to keep receiving Medicaid funding for this program, Planned Parenthood will still lose funding in Texas. In that scenario, some Texas branches of the organization would likely be forced to close, making health care access to women harder. On top of that, the precedent would be set that states can refuse to comply with federal laws while still receiving federal money – it is a precedent that Obama can little afford as attacks of his ability to lead firmly continue to fly from the Republican contenders for president.
One thing is certain: proponents reproductive rights are in for a long, bloody, and costly fight with Texas.