Texas: Update on pro-life senator Steve Ogden’s trampling on health of State’s poorest women Print E-mail

..... From September 2006, the beginning of the next fiscal year, the undercutting of family planning programs likely to start all over again 

Read earlier Editorial: An irrational, secretive redistribution of millions of dollars robs Texas' poorest women of health care

and also the repercussions of Senator Ogden’s misogyny: Women struggling with cuts to clinics

 Monday May 22 2006

Wasn't broken

The state health department is providing millions to repair a sabotaged family planning network.

SOME politicians will do almost anything to make a point. Last year, state Sen. Steve Ogden felt such a need to show his pro-life credentials that he jeopardized the health of thousands of Texas women. Now the state is trying to repair the damage.

Under a disastrous measure Ogden steered to passage, the Legislature diverted $10 million in annual family planning funds from established clinics to largely first-time providers.

The predictable result: many longtime providers shuttered their rural clinics and turned away women who relied on them for services such as cancer screening and birth control.

There was another result: Despite their good intentions, the new contractors lacked the expertise to actually use their windfalls. This week, after reviewing the clinics' scant spending, state health officials returned $5.2 million to the programs that had had their state support cut.

Planned Parenthood of Houston, the family planning clinic at Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital and other longtime providers have three months to use the new injection of cash. But their infrastructure has now been mangled. Planned Parenthood of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle laid off eight staffers and shut down two clinics when its funding was diverted. Parkland closed three clinics. The El Paso County Hospital District clinic is still reeling after losing half its funds.

The new dollars are welcome and will help women get badly needed care. But the money won't rebuild darkened clinics in small towns or rehire staffers fired because of the cutbacks.

And there's little point in trying to revive these programs. This month, family planning contractors begin the process of requesting state funds for the next fiscal year. Once again, $10 million may well go to the fledgling clinics that couldn't use it effectively the first time.

Ironically, these federally subsidized startup clinics offer excellent resources for poor communities. Texas should have more of them. But it is unfair to use these neighborhood health centers in a crusade to weaken Planned Parenthood and other expert providers that can offer birth control, screenings and women's health care specialists.

Some politicians believe they gain support when they harass Planned Parenthood, but in the end the state has bowed to reality: Texas needs its established family planning providers.

Nevertheless, next fiscal year ­ which begins in September ­ the undercutting of family planning programs will likely start again. That's because the measure that diverted money to unequipped clinics remains in place. Texas had a network of dedicated family planning clinics that wasn't broken. The state seems bent on "fixing" it until it shatters.
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle