Now Texas Wants its Women's Health Program to Ban Doctors from Talking about Abortion

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Certified medical doctors Tom Suehs and Rick Perry.
As Governor Rick Perry vows not to take any of that filthy federal money to expand Medicaid in Texas, state lawmakers may also have to find another $39 million next year to keep the Medicaid Women's Health Program alive.

These days, the WHP has been going through some prolonged death throes. Texas is trying to kick Planned Parenthood's health clinics out of the program for being "abortion affiliates." The federal government is trying to tell the state just how illegal that is, given that the feds provide 90 percent of the funding for the $40 million program and federal Medicaid rules say that states can't block qualified providers from participating. (That argument is being fought right now -- with all the urgency of a drugged tortoise -- in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.)

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.

Originally, the idea was to try to prevent state money from going to healthcare providers who performed abortions or are "affiliated" with those who do. (The lawmakers behind the move chose to ignore the fact that abortions never actually happened with Medicaid money to begin with, except in rare cases of rape, incest or a woman's life being endangered.) That effort, which passed during the 2011 legislative session, was pretty obviously aimed at Planned Parenthood. The nonprofit has two branches, which are legally separate from one another: health clinics, which don't perform abortions, and surgical centers, which do.

But the letter, which contains the HHSC's proposed new rules, says something else entirely. Now, abortion "affiliates" wouldn't just banned in the new WHP -- so would "promoting" abortion in any way.

And what exactly does it mean to "promote" abortion? Providing a patient with a referral to a facility that performs abortions, referring to abortion as "within the continuum of family planning services," "furnishing or displaying" information to a patient that "publicizes or advertises an abortion service or provider," or displaying a "brand name" of a healthcare provider that performs abortions.

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."

Except, we guess, when the state decides that women don't need to be informed.

This new WHP will cost Texas taxpayers $39,132,223 in 2013, which will come out of the general fund. Again, this is a program that used to cost us just $1 for every $9 provided by the federal government.

And one more reminder for low-income women: Should you still decide to have an abortion, you will have to successfully find a facility on your own, pay for the procedure out of pocket, suffer through a description of a sonogram you may not need or want, and then, most likely, tell state Representative Bill Zedler all about it .

Attorney General's Letter With New HHSC Guidelines on Texas-Run WHP


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17 comments
Leigh Williams
Leigh Williams

What part of "bodily integrity" is beyond your ability to understand, Cory?  But following your "reasoning", let's be fiscally responsible and vasectomize all the men.  That's a way cheaper way of mandating that only fiscally responsible people engender children.  Dirt cheap to snip those tubes (for the state), way expensive to tie them back together (man who wants to father a child).  What, you're not in favor of that idea?  I guess you do get the concept of bodily integrity after all, at least as long as the body in question belongs to a man.

Jan
Jan

Often uninsured patients newly diagnosed with serious illnesses like cancer are immediately placed on Medicaid rolls. So if a cancer patient becomes pregnant, her physician would be unable to advise her that going to term may accelerate her mestastic condition and hasten her death. Just so we're clear on the GOP's "pro-life" stance.

Ed Arnold
Ed Arnold

These religious-right Texans typically shovel the point of view that "life is sacred" when they oppose abortion. But these are the same people who hate Obamacare.  To the point that they are eager to force lower-income people to stop working because they are ill, let them physically and mentally suffer, and then die; because they can't get access to a doctor to diagnose what's wrong. And Texas has some of the worst waiting lists for services for the mentally ill and developmentally-disabled in the nation.  (Check the Coleman Institute Report for DD stats.)  Apparently life is not sacred if you have MI or DD. What is wrong with this picture?

boloboffin
boloboffin

Here's how they enforce it: with sting operations like James O'Keefe and the rest of them. They go in for tests, asking for abortion advice, and any doctor they rook into telling where the nearest Planned Parenthood office is, or even saying the name? BAM. It's on the Internet one day and the doctor's in court the next. 

boloboffin
boloboffin

This is even worse than you're making it out to be, if I'm reading it correctly. There can be no referral to Planned Parenthood for contraceptive services or mammograms, not just abortion services. You can't even have a Planned Parenthood brochure on a table somewhere. Clinics providing TWHP services cannot even be in the same building or share the same physical address as a healthcare provider who offers abortion services (think strip malls or medical campuses), even if elective abortions are not offered at that particular address by either party. At what point does "undue burden" apply? How long can these theocrats drive a nullification wedge into our Union?

Satyagraha
Satyagraha

This is what you get when one party has unencumbered power for 18 years (with all apologies to Bob Bullock who managed to keep things under control until 1999).

B. Bullock
B. Bullock

Mark White left office 25 years ago. The Texas Dem Party is as culpable in the disintegration of the political discourse in this state as the GOP. They haven't made a sincere effort to win the office since 1994, and even then it was only sincere because they had the incumbent.

G. Bluth
G. Bluth

Halfway across the world? Don't you know the mooslim hordes are installing Sharia law all over the U!S!A! right now? Have you not seen the death squads stoning people in the streets for not covering their sinful skin? If we don't do something now to stop these evil religious nuts from making us all slaves of Allah how are our religious nuts going to make us slaves to Jayzus? Come On!

Geo. Washington
Geo. Washington

Why does the GOP hate the Constitution and the laws of the United States? Sounds pretty UnAmerican to me.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Very valid point.  If they cannot be mutually supportive as husband and wife during a pregnancy, I'd guess the marriage much bigger issues to worry about.

Chiggers!
Chiggers!

Hey, hey... hey now. Not so fast. We're gonna need soldiers ya'know. How do you expect us to beat back the moslem hoarde without a ready supply of low income young men and women that will someday "Be all that they can be" by gunning down some poor schlub halfway across the world so that we can continue to have access to light, sweet crude that Jesus meant for OUR SUV's. Damnit!

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

This is Rick Perry's answer to ObamaCare.  PerryCare is still the government telling you what medical care you can or cannot have.  I am still amazed how he keeps getting reelected.  I am a firm believer in Smal government and tend to vote Republican, but I have never voted for this "gentleman".  I've voted for Kinky, Libertarians, heck, anybody other than Rick Perry.  Can the Democrats please convince somebody other than a no name candidate (sorry Chris Bell) to run for the govenorship?

Cory
Cory

Typically, Texas gets it backward once again. Instead of banning abortion, it should be mandating it. If abortion is nothing more than a non-homicidal medical procedure when a woman elects it, then it remains the same non-homicidal medical procedure if the state decides to mandate it for any woman unable to provide proof of the financial responsibility needed to bring the pregnancy to term and beyond. The last thing Texas or any other state needs to be doing is interfering with a woman's lifestyle by subsidizing her, and mandated abortion is clearly the cheapest alternative.

JB
JB

IMO, this is happening because the state is ruled by white males deeply in thrall to the "Christian" rightwing bible thumpers who 'revere all human life' until it is born into the world, then they don't give a damn about that life.   If it weren't for voter apathy from citizens apart from the fundamentalist supporters, we wouldn't be burdened with the likes of Gov. Goodhair and his minions. It saddens me to realize we are stuck with him for another two years...

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Yep, The idiots voted this walking hairpiece and his cronies in, we need to kick them out and make sure that this next session of the ledge we begin the process of adding term limits to the TX Constitution for gov/lt. gov, as this has become f'ing insanity.. 

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