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Prevention first



Jeffrey Hons, executive director of Planned Parenthood of San Antonio and South Central Texas, began his career at the family-planing organization 13 years ago as an educator, which might explain his ability to advocate equally passionately for practical details and intangible philosophical issues. As for his persistence in a state that continues to embrace abstinence-only sex ed despite its miserable track record, Hons is a man who likes opposition ...

I can’t do the elliptical machine. It’s some sort of coordination issue.

What do you mean?

I don’t know, I’ve done it a couple times and it just ...

OK, you know what you might need to do, and it sounds counterintuitive, but it actually helps — There are two things you can adjust: one is the ramp, and one is the resistance. If you increase the resistance you’ll be more coordinated, because what I found when I first started doing it, is that you need some resistance.

You’re obviously the sort of person who likes resistance.

I work well with resistance. With no resistance, I don’t know what to do.

If there are three statistics that would give people a picture of where we’re at with reproductive rights in Texas right now ...

OK, here’s one for sure: The reimbursement rate in Texas for providing a pack of oral contraception to a woman who comes to a sliding-scale family planning clinic like Planned Parenthood and gets birth control — so she won’t get pregnant, so she won’t have a Medicaid-paid-for labor and delivery which is going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money — if she is covered by Medicaid or the Texas Women’s Health Program, when Planned Parenthood or any other family-planning provider provides her with that pack of pills, that reimbursement rate is the same as it’s been for over 20 years ... right now it still stands at $2.80, and we are now getting to the point where we can’t even buy the pills at anywhere near that. And that doesn’t account for the fact that they’re being distributed in our Class D pharmacy by licensed nurse practitioners and physicians. Medicaid in Texas is stuck at this spot. The staff at `Texas Health and Human Services Commission` has made recommendations for this movement based on lots of research, and it is sitting on Albert Hawkins’ desk, the commissioner of `HHSC`, and he’s not moving on it even though, if we say, Well we just can’t afford this, so we’re just going to write you a scrip ... if you go to a full-service retail pharmacy and get that filled, the reimbursement that the pharmacy will get is many, many times greater than what we would have gotten. So it costs the state more money if we give you a scrip and you walk over there. And I’m convinced it’s political reasons. He’s got right-wingers like `Texas State Senator Steve` Ogden, who serves on the Legislative Budget Board, watching every move he makes, so he’s just gonna be frozen.

Second, you can’t talk about this without noticing that teenage and too-soon pregnancy rates in this country have started to level off if not fall, but that isn’t happening in Texas, and all of us have to kind of shoulder that indictment. This is our state, our cities, our communities, and this is not happening here, and that’s just not OK. Each of us should be saying, I have to do something more.

Does that correllate with abstinence-only education? Lack of birth control? Just lack of sex ed?

Good sex education and access to family planning for people who are sexually active, whether they’re 16 or 60 years old, those are public-policy and public-health concerns that have to be part of the mix when you’re thinking about this. But the thing that is perhaps more elusive, but just as important: communities large and small have a personality, or value set, or an ethic, or a Zeitgiest, or something, that is ... you know we go to different cities and we think, oh, this city is very arts-oriented, this city is a tech city, and this city is a big creative-class city. I don’t know how to get this done, but we have to become a community that says sexuality is a wonderful and beautiful part of being human. It’s got some potential potholes and we’re gonna take really good care of those, but people — even people we raise in our families — are going to be people who grow up and form relationships, and hopefully a beautiful sex life is going to be part of the love that they find as well. That sex life, there’s an average age for the onset of that, and our kid will probably not be right at the average — I think all of us hope that our kid’s gonna be on the other end; they’re gonna get averaged out by those kids that have sex really early — but somewhere between 16 and 26 your kid is gonna have sex for the first time. And I just wish we were more of a community where we just said, You know, don’t we want for that to be a wonderful moment? And if that’s going to be a wonderful moment for that person’s life, they’re gonna feel good about who they are physically, sexually; they’re going to know what they need to know about protecting themselves and their partner; they’re probably not going to want to become parents the very first time they have sex, even if it is on a wedding night.

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