The recent public debate over reproductive rights is not just a women’s issue. In Texas, it is also a Latina issue.
Under Governor Rick Perry’s watch, the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program will be terminated next week, effectively ending basic care, including cancer screening and family planning services to nearly 130,000 low income women, many of them Latina.
Carla Holeva, vice president of medical affairs at Planned Parenthood West Texas says: "When 130,000 women are going to get cut, that's a problem for our state as a public health issue."
Meanwhile, state officials, activists, and the Planned Parenthood Action Center, the political and advocacy arm of the nation’s leading women’s health care provider Planned Parenthood, are organizing efforts to halt the cut as the date approaches.
Melissa Del Bosque writes in the Texas Observer that:
Latinos in Texas are disproportionately poor and tend to lack access to health care. Consider these numbers: At least 40 percent of Hispanics lack health insurance. Latinos comprise 38 percent of Texas’ population, but 54 percent of its Medicaid recipients, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. More than 53 percent of Texans living in poverty are Hispanic.
She quotes Steve Murdock, the Texas state demographer under Gov. George W. Bush, who argues that the state would benefit from investing in their Latino population and who: "For years... had been telling anyone who would listen that Texas was heading for ruin if the state didn’t spend the money to educate its growing Hispanic population. Texas would become a poorer, less competitive state, he warned. He told lawmakers over and over—at hearings, policy forums and private meetings—about the dire consequences if they did nothing to address the gaping education and income divides
Dr. Rose Gowen, a Brownsville, TX city commissioner, says the decision to end the program was a political one. In her article published in the Rio Grande Guardian this week, she writes:
This was an effort to deny any funds to Planned Parenthood. For the record, in the Valley, Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide abortions and both federal and state law explicitly prohibit one penny of taxpayer money from funding abortions. So it appears to be more of symbolic move, except for the fact that the 130,000 real women are being stripped from their access to health care.
Nearly a quarter of the women Planned Parenthood services are Latina women.
In Nicholas D. Kristof’s The New York Times Op-ed piece published this week, entitled “When States Abuse Women,” regarding a new state laws requiring women who are seeking an abortion to go through a series of steps, he writes:
That law is part of a war over women’s health being fought around the country — and in much of the country, women are losing. State by state, legislatures are creating new obstacles to abortions and are treating women in ways that are patronizing and humiliating.
Perhaps it is only appropriate that this discussion is being played out during Women’s History Month. Or perhaps insulting. March 8 is International Women’s Day.