Planned cuts frustrate Planned Parenthood patients

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by DEBBIE DENMON

WFAA

Posted on February 28, 2012 at 8:28 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 28 at 8:28 PM

DALLAS — It's a decision that impacts 130,000 low-income Texas women.

The Medicaid Women's Health Program funds birth control, cancer screenings and annual exams, with most of that federal money going to Planned Parenthood clinics. But some Texas lawmakers want to cut ties with the program.

Unless a deal can be reached, funding will terminate by the end of March.

Two full-time college students with part-time jobs say they can't afford insurance and say they're frustrated.

"They are hurting a lot of poor women, and we shouldn't be harmed by this," Chenoa Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth said she went without a gynecology exam for three years until she heard about Planned Parenthood offering free yearly screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

Now she is worried, because during the last legislative session, Republican lawmakers designed language preventing Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics from participating in the Texas Women's Health Program, a successful pilot program receiving both state and government funds for the last five years.

Alexis Lohse, who is also a full-time college student and mother of two girls, also has no health benefits and is very concerned.

"At this point, getting preventative health care like this is going to be a luxury I'll have to make room for," she said. "I don't know where I will find affordable health care like I would have at Planned Parenthood."

Republican State Sen. Jane Nelson, who led the charge on the changes impacting Planned Parenthood patients, said the state is not at fault and issued this statement: "If these services are interrupted, it will have a devastating impact on the health of Texas women — and the blame will lie squarely on the federal government..."

She is right; it is all politics.

The Obama administration is no longer going to send $40 million in federal funding to support the Texas WHP (Women’s Health Program).

Government officials think it is illegal for the state to to cancel funding of Planned Parenthood clinics because some clinics offer abortion services.

Planned Parenthood says out of 21 clinics in North Texas, only two offer abortion services, and that their surgical centers are a separate legal entity and have never received state funding.

The result of the feud is reduced preventive health care for women.

"I worry women will ignore sexually transmitted infections that can lead to infertility," said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Kelly Hart. "I worry they will show up at Parkland Hospital with full blown cervical cancer when they could have come to us before it ever got to that stage. We are a gateway health care provider, and many of our patients — if they don't see us — they won't come see anybody."

The pro-life community is pleased with the Planned Parenthood funding restrictions.

"They are the largest abortion provider, and we need to do all we can to get funding away from them," said Karen Garnett with the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas.

Garnett said Planned Parenthood patients can get care elsewhere, but Planned Parenthood officials want those places pointed out. They say there are not enough Medicaid clinics to care for their 6,800 patients in North Texas.

"There are some areas where our clinic is the only one in small towns providing free health care exams," Hart said. "I just feel at this point and time, there are legislators who are putting political ideology above women's access to health care."

She is hoping indigent women reach out to their legislators, but so far Texas lawmakers are not budging.

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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