Texas Disables Problem-Riddled Health Provider Website But Still Has No Answers on Access to Care
Last week, the Texas Health And Human Services Commission disabled the problem-riddled online provider search function on its Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP) website, which has, for months, directed low-income women seeking pap smears and contraceptives to call endoscopy clinics and pediatric offices which do not offer these services.
Now, when women log on to TexasWomensHealth.org in search of a doctor, they’re directed to call a 1-800 number so that an operator can help them find one, a method that one HHSC employee testified in court has been completely effective.
“We’ve been able to find every single woman who calls a provider,” testified Michelle Harper, a policy advisor at the HHSC, during a January 11th hearing regarding Planned Parenthood’s most recent lawsuit filed over its exclusion from the new Texas Women’s Health Program. Texas state court judge Stephen Yelonosky ruled that day that, while he believes injury is being done to Texans who are no longer able to receive WHP care from Planned Parenthood, he could not grant the provider a temporary injunction that would allow it to remain in the program because of the low likelihood that Planned Parenthood would succeed at trial in the future.
Study Finds Persistent PCB Contamination Linked to Infertility
Back in 1979, the U.S. government banned Polychlorinated Biphenyls [PCBs] after adverse health effects, including cancer, heart disease, and adrenal and thyroid problems, were linked to the chemical compound. Three-and-a-half decades later it turns out that PCBs are even worse than scientists initially thought, lingering in air, water, and soil and continuing to pollute the environment.
Since PCBs don’t degrade naturally, scientists have concluded that they can persist for decades and accumulate in human and animal tissue. Worse, the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment, a four-year survey conducted by the National Institutes for Health — study results were published in Environmental Health Perspectives in late 2012 — has conclusively tied them to infertility.
Dr. Peter deFur is an environmental consultant and president of Environmental Stewardship Concepts LLC, a Richmond, Virginia company that assists community groups, government agencies, and businesses with environmental clean-up. He notes that, “every state has a PCB contamination problem from a river, an old Superfund site, or buildings that were constructed before the PCB ban went into effect. Most of us carry some body burden of these chemicals, substances that we now know impact pregnancy as well as the brain growth and development of fetuses and children.”
Texas Dept. of Health Goes Big Brother: Extrajudicial and Invasive Collection of Info on Women and Doctors to Begin in 2013
See all of our exclusive coverage of Rep. Bill Zedler here.
In 2013, the state of Texas will begin gathering new and more invasive information on women seeking and doctors providing safe abortion care thanks to new reporting requirements developed extrajudicially at the insistence of an anti-choice Tea Party lawmaker and now being implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Representative Bill Zedler tried, but failed, to get new reporting requirements enacted by law in the 2011 legislative session, so he asked the Health and Human Services Commission to do it for him; now, after months of public hearings and input from doctors and clinicians decrying the new rules, he’s succeeded.
Zedler originally wanted to go full-Big Brother on the subject of abortion, compiling a dream list of information (including the age of the “father” and a check-off list of Zedler-imagined reasons for termination, such as the favorite anti-choice scare story that “the woman does not prefer the gender of the unborn child,”) that he intended to collect about patients and doctors. The reporting data has been scaled back somewhat in the final, adopted version of the new rules, which will take effect on December 31, 2012.
Planned Parenthood Files New Suit in Fight Over Texas Women’s Health Program
Planned Parenthood has filed a new suit in Texas state court claiming that it cannot, under state law, be excluded from participating in the newly-established Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP)—a program which the state created with the express purpose of being able to exclude Planned Parenthood, because Texas considers the health care organization an “abortion affiliate.”
A state judge in Austin issued a temporary restraining order Friday preventing the state from banning Planned Parenthood from the state-run women’s health program. The order was issued a day after a federal appellate court refused to reconsider an earlier 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that allowed the state to implement the ban; Planned Parenthood argued the funding ban should be blocked because it was in violation of federal law.
In the lawsuit filed in Travis County District Court, Planned Parenthood argues that the state’s Affiliate Ban Rule is not authorized by Chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code. That is the state law which establishes the Women’s Health Program.
According to the statute, the program is subject to approval from the federal government and makes any provision “inoperative” if it causes the state to lose federal matching money for the Women’s Health Program. According to the lawsuit, HHSC was not authorized by the Texas legislature to adopt the Affiliate Ban Rule because it makes the Women’s Health Program ineligible for federal funding. The Affiliate Ban Rule is, therefore, invalid as a matter of state law.
Unnecessary Restrictions on Abortion Care: How Democracy Side-Stepping Sausage Is Made, Texas-Style
Next week, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission Council will consider whether to adopt new abortion reporting requirements in the state—requirements that are being proposed at the behest of a Republican politician who failed to get his desired requirements passed through democratic means in the state legislature last year.
Tea Party-endorsed Rep. Bill Zedler wants the state to collect more personal information about abortion-seeking women and increase vague “complication” reporting requirements for abortion providers. The Texas HHSC is considering the new requirements as a kind of consolation prize to Zedler, who tried and failed to pass the requirements as an amendment to the Texas law that bars Planned Parenthood (and other “abortion affiliates”) from participating in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program in the state.
“The amendment wasn’t added,” Department of State Health Services press officer Carrie Williams told RH Reality Check in April, “but at the time HHSC and DSHS agreed to look at the additional requirements and determine what elements could possibly be adopted by rule.”
RH Reality Check filed a public information request for correspondence between Rep. Zedler’s office and the DSHS to find out how the department came to be catering to one anti-choice Republican’s demands. Documents show the answer is simple: mighty politely, in true friendly Texan style. Zedler’s office asked for what it wanted, and DSHS did its best to comply with their requests.
Biblical Abortion: A Christian’s View
The American version of the War on Women has been going on for quite some time, and one of the most long-standing fronts in this war is abortion. It’s an unpleasant topic that’s fraught with complexities and complications, so it’s been a frequent tool in dividing us into Pro- and Anti- camps of social warfare (and in the cases of murders of doctors and bombings of clinics, actual violent warfare).
The War on Women has been especially effective in getting many to feel as though Christians need to march in lockstep against the idea of allowing abortions of any type to ever be legal, to the point of criminalizing miscarriage, itself. Those who try to conscript religious Christians into this war do so under the argument that the Bible itself demands such a prohibition.
Except that it doesn’t. The Bible never once specifically forbids abortions; it’s actually quite the contrary! Not only were methods of abortion well-known at the time, there’s times when the Bible states God commands that one take place. I’m going to walk through a few examples as illustrations.