Latinas Are Watching in Texas
Editors’ Note: On March 14, Texas Governor Rick Perry will cut off access to affordable health care for more than 130,000 low-income women in Texas. But women aren’t sitting back and staying silent.
For the next eight days, Planned Parenthood Federation of America is putting their bus back on the road and sending a message loud and clear: don’t mess with Texas women. From now until March 13 they will be criss-crossing the Lone Star State (making more than 20 stops in 16 cities) to make sure Governor Rick Perry and his anti-women’s health allies get the message: stop playing politics with women’s health.
Want to know more? Check out DontMesswithTexasWomen.Org for the latest news and information. In the meantime, read about why Latinas are Watching in Texas.
That is the number of low-income women that could be left without basic health care because of a rule signed February 23rd by Texas’ Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs. The rule, which takes effect in just nine days, bans any funding through the Medicaid Women’s Health Program for Planned Parenthood health centers. The Obama administration has already contacted Governor Perry as to the illegality of the rule. Ninety percent of the Women’s Health Program is funded by the federal government, and the rule only affects Planned Parenthood health centers and other "affiliates of abortion providers." It is against federal law for states to pick and choose which qualified organizations can be left out of federal funding. It seems that Perry is willing to let go of the entire program — and willing to sacrifice women’s lives — to prove his opposition to Planned Parenthood.
Perry has certainly voiced his position on abortion, but considering that no federal taxpayer money funds abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, I see this move as a perfect example of a politician carelessly playing with women’s health, and women’s lives, to advance his own twisted ideology. What infuriates me more is that Latinas just like me will be disproportionately hurt by this rule — Latinas are more likely to live in poverty than their counterparts, be uninsured, and to lack a regular health care provider: Latinas are more likely to need the lifesaving care that Perry is so eagerly defunding.
The signing of this rule is nothing more than a blatant attack on Latinas in the state of Texas. Texas, a state that is the home to more than nine million Latinos, has the third highest rate of cervical cancer in the country. This fact hits close to home, considering that Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group — one-and-a-half times as likely as non-Latina women. Planned Parenthood health centers are the largest providers of preventive health care within the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program, preventive care that includes screenings for cervical cancer. For a governor that has said time and time again that he “hates cancer” and will do anything to fight it, Gov. Perry repeatedly fails to put Texas’ money where his mouth is.
Planned Parenthood health centers are essential to the Latino community — providing lifesaving care to many people who just don’t have another place to turn for medical treatment — treatment that includes breast exams, cancer screenings, birth control, and other preventive care. Almost one-quarter of Planned Parenthood’s patients are Latinos — one-quarter!
That is why Planned Parenthood Action Fund has launched the Latinas Are Watching engagement campaign — to let politicians know that Latinas everywhere are watching their every move, their every aggressive attack on women’s health. I hope those same politicians know that every month, 50,000 Latinos turn 18 and become eligible to vote. We have a message to Gov. Perry and every single one of those politicians: Latinas Are Watching, and we will vote.
And to my hermanas: ¡Ojo! Make some noise and let your voice be heard. Accessible, affordable, reliable health care is something that our Latino community desperately needs, a service that someone you know very much depends on. Contact your legislators and senators, your neighbors and friends, share this information with as many people as you can, and urge everyone to stand with those 130,000 Texan women, with our Latina sisters, that could potentially lose access to lifesaving health care due to Gov. Perry putting politics before women’s health. Together we can reverse this rule; we are stronger than they think we are. Enough is enough.