Funding cuts to public health services disproportionately impact poorer Americans. Texas's continued dismantling of reproductive health services sentences lower-income women to preventable and treatable conditions because they are unable to afford or acquire care. While most of these initiatives are undertaken with the stated intent of limiting or eliminating abortion services, reproductive health takes a variety of forms and is vital to all women.
Beyond the ideological pandering, reproductive care is about access. If the U.S. Constitution guarantees a woman the right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, that choice cannot be achieved without access to appropriate care. Situations like these should provoke further discussion about how we treat reproductive rights in the U.S. While rhetoric about "choice" may be politically compelling, access should be the focus for activists seeking to improve the lives of lower-income women.
That's when the GOP-controlled Texas legislature slashed $73 million from the state’s family-planning budget, leaving approximately 147,000 women without access to affordable preventative health care and shuttering more than 50 clinics statewide. It’s a move that women’s rights advocates—and some legislators—say is more about restricting access to abortion and contraception than saving money. "Of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything—that's what family planning is supposed to be about," declared state Rep. Wayne Christian, a Republican, in an interview with The Texas Tribune. Lawmakers also passed a ban on "abortion affiliates," thereby barring all Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving state funding. The legislation is estimated to impact upwards of 50,000 women, many of them with low incomes. The cuts have created a public health disaster, especially for the state’s Latina community, which is plagued by high rates of cervical cancer and other reproductive health problems. “We are witnessing the dismantling of a safety net that took decades to build and could not easily be recreated even if funding were restored soon,” wrote a doctor and three academics in a New England Journal of Medicine article in 2012. Conservative politicians have since felt the political repercussions of their decisions. Reeling from accusations of a "war on women," Republican state senators last year proposed adding $100 million for women’s health services back into the state’s primary-care program. But advocates say it’s too little, too late. "It’s hard to put back together a system that’s been dismantled," said Sarah Wheat, vice president for community affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.