Friday, May 22, 2009

Growing Families In Our Future

In times of pinched finances and meltdown of working people's budgets, what would make the State Legislature in Texas pump up the number of mouths to feed? In case you haven't guessed by now, the answer is right wing ideology.

In its usual courtship of the far right mantra - birth control is evil - our state has been cutting funding for family planning clinics. That doesn't include just those clinics that offer abortions in cases where it is a medical necessity. All that qualifies family planning as an object of aversion is its name. If Texans want to keep their family size within their budget, courtesy of their wingnut fellow voters, they won't have sufficient help from their own state funds.

Clinics that have been providing family-planning services find themselves on the losing end of a fight over how the state can best provide birth control, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and other services.

Patrice Capan said her Denton clinic was effectively performing complete physical exams on patients such as Azucena Perez - until the state cut her funding.

And many clinic operators and their advocates see anti-abortion politics at work, though lawmakers who have reorganized the state's family-planning budget say their goal is to provide more comprehensive health care, not push an agenda.

Over the last four years, lawmakers have diverted millions of dollars from the specialty clinics such as Planned Parenthood to expand family-planning services at community health centers, which provide a broader range of services. In the current legislative session, lawmakers may give back some money to the specialty clinics – but only what's left unused by the health centers.

That leaves clinic operators like Patrice Capan hurting. She's dedicated her career to providing reproductive health care to uninsured Denton patients. But since the budget changes were first implemented, she's had to slash services and shutter one of her two clinics, turning away hundreds of poor patients.

"This has been heartbreaking," Capan said. "It's just a constant hustle to see what I can offer – and then hope it works."

Many public health experts say clinics such as Capan's have a clear track record as providing more efficient and effective reproductive care.
Texas isn't the only state that's struggled over how best to fund family-planning services. A 2000 study on family planning in California – published in the Journal of Adolescent Health – found that women with many health care options continued to go to specialized reproductive care clinics like Planned Parenthood, saying they found them more convenient, comfortable and confidential.

Capan said her 21-year-old clinic, Denton-based Family Health Care Inc., was effectively performing complete physical exams – until the state cut her funding. Now, she can't afford to run urine, iron and blood sugar testing. And she's had to put patients on waiting lists for certain types of birth control, because she doesn't have the money.

Money that has been taken from us taxpayers - who would rather not see the number of families living in poverty grow - has been left unused by the community health clinics. While we can depend on those legislators vying for the spotlight to protect to the death the right to bear arms, now on campus, we will be granted even more impoverished families to support.

This is the state legislature at its finest, as in using stimulus funds the governor berates to repair the mansion he lives in; A total of $22 million — half of that in federal stimulus money — has been allocated in a budget compromise to restore the fire-gutted Texas Governor's Mansion, legislative leaders said Thursday. Somehow I doubt that the plaque thanking donors for funds to restore the burned building will attribute its restoration to President Obama's beneficence and/or public spirit.

The attacks on family planning in Dallas has led to increased numbers of those suffering from AIDs. As a result of this result of ideology's triumph over good sense, local government has backed off the nonsense and allowed health care workers finally to distribute condoms. Sometimes the expenses they burden the public coffers with are stupid enough to push back wingers' extremism. This would be a good time for that to happen on a statewide basis.

Do we really need to push the numbers of children born into poverty upwards? No one can see this as a benefit to society. When ideology interferes with the perception of reality held by those in power, we get disaster.

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