Jeffrey Hons, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Trust of South Texas, says he refuses to turn the page on 2011 in anger, frustration, or disappointment. But it's hard to see how that's an option. In a concentrated wave of of anti-abortion sentiment, women's health care and family planning in Texas took one in the teeth in 2011. Right-wing groups led a fiery, and largely successful, charge aimed at decimating state-funded family planning programs at the Legislature, the main goal being the complete defunding of Planned Parenthood in Texas. Poor and uninsured Texas women became the collateral damage. "It doesn't take much reflection on any of our parts to say we've never seen a year like this," Hons said. "I'm afraid as we go forward we're going to start seeing huge medical bills and terrible tragedies. … I just don't see how that doesn't happen."
Texas lawmakers axed nearly two-thirds of the state's $100 million biennial budget for basic family planning services for low-income Texans, services put in place to prevent unplanned pregnancies. But the larger and more tragic standoff may come in early 2012. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid this month already shot down Texas' request to ban certain family planning providers — namely Planned Parenthood — from its widely successful Women's Health Program providing contraception and reproductive healthcare, like breast and cervical cancer screenings, to more than 100,000 low-income uninsured Texas women per year. While the feds this month gave Texas a three-month lifeline (the program was originally set to expire at the end of December), they've made it clear they can't approve the state's current proposal because it "violates longstanding federal law" by excluding physicians, clinics, and providers that "perform elective abortions or are affiliated with abortion providers." Language out of Texas, that it will work to "enforce the state's right to establish provider qualifications for the program that reflect the values of the state," doesn't inspire confidence that Texas and the feds will reach an understanding inside 2012. Women will pay.