By state Rep. Donna Howard

This is the story of a veto.  While there have been 50 payments rejected by Governor Greg Abbott following the 85th Legislative Session — every with its personal specific narrative — this story is about Senate Bill 790 which might have prolonged for two extra years the work of the Women’s Health Advisory Committee, a gaggle of suppliers who suggested the State relating to the organizational and funding buildings of the brand new women’s health packages in Texas.

Once upon a time when extra purpose prevailed, Texas lawmakers created a Medicaid waiver program to offer primary health screenings and contraceptives to women who wouldn’t in any other case have these coated by insurance coverage.  And this Women’s Health Program was so profitable in stopping unplanned pregnancies and saving taxpayer dollars that, after analyzing a couple of years of knowledge, the Legislative Budget Board advisable an enlargement to reap even larger advantages.  Disappointingly, by that point the period of cause (comparatively talking) had come to an finish.

In 2011, the “war on abortion” was in excessive gear, and lots of Republican lawmakers equated household planning clinics comparable to Planned Parenthood with that single medical process.  Unfortunately for the WHP, it turned out that the large dangerous Planned Parenthood was this system’s largest supplier, serving almost half of its shoppers.  When the group turned a goal, so did general household planning provided all through the state.  Thus, towards its personal self-interest, the Legislature huffed and puffed and blew down the home of the WHP whereas additionally slicing household planning funding by 2/three.  This gravely impacted entry to providers throughout Texas, and compelled over eighty clinics—most of which weren’t Planned Parenthood amenities—to shut their doorways.

When legislators returned in 2013, sobered from the headiness of profitable that first battle, many have been surprised to study of the collateral injury and that their actions impacted greater than only a single focused supplier.  Donning their white knight duds, they rode to the “rescue” with program modifications and elevated funding, whereas nonetheless, in fact, banishing Planned Parenthood.  However, as within the story of Humpty Dumpty, a severely tattered security internet system couldn’t simply be put again collectively once more.

Despite the Legislature’s try to fix the self-inflicted wounds, women’s health was nonetheless in jeopardy.  A brand new state-funded alternative for the WHP was seeing considerably fewer shoppers than the unique program, even after a serious uptick in supplier enrollment.  And the much-heralded funding increase didn’t truly restore however, moderately, redirected income towards one other new program, which additionally failed to satisfy its household planning service objectives. Once once more, women’s health packages confronted a big overhaul.

The final chapter of our story begins with the consolidation of women’s health packages in 2015.  As this was the third try and rebuild a once-successful program, it was crucial that the third time be the allure.  Hence the creation of the WHAC to assist make sure that the system would effectively and successfully goal eligible populations with a seamless and complete array of providers, together with household planning. 

The new Healthy Texas Women program was not absolutely carried out till the summer time of 2016, and, sadly, the newest knowledge revealed that the State continues to see fewer women than earlier than.  With the jury nonetheless out on the success of the consolidation, a coalition made up of health professionals, advocacy teams, and a bipartisan assortment of lawmakers efficiently handed SB 790 to increase the WHAC for one other two years.  No oracle predicted the ultimate consequence: SB 790 felled  by a veto pen, towards the higher judgment of these most related to the subject.  Today, women’s health providers limp alongside, making an attempt desperately to recapture a degree of effectiveness that was misplaced as a result of legislative meddling in 2011, and with out boots-on-the-ground people to assist guarantee correct outcomes.

The ethical to our story?  Perhaps, “If it ain’t broke, do not repair it.”  After all of the modifications to the state’s women’s health packages, we’re nonetheless making an attempt to merely obtain service ranges from days of yore.  For now, although, women and their households appear to be trapped in certainly one of Grimm’s fairy tales, ready for a (s)hero to journey in and save the day.

Rep. Donna Howard has served within the Texas Legislature since 2006, representing House District 48 in Travis County.  She is a former registered nurse and a previous vice chair of the House Women’s Health Caucus.


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