THE FIRING LINE: Stand for social justice

The Firing Line

I appreciated The Daily Texan’s coverage of the protest on behalf of Planned Parenthood at the capitol in March. I am, however, concerned that I haven’t read anything about the HB 1 amendment that redirected funds away from the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, currently used to provide preventative health services through Planned Parenthood, to other unrelated service areas.

Furthermore, the consequences of these cuts require the attention of the student community. The amendment to HB 1, if carried over into the final budget bill, will leave 41 percent of women enrolled in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program without a women’s health care provider. This is because 41 percent of women enrolled in that program go to Planned Parenthood to receive their preventative care. A bill currently in the House Human Services Committee, HB 419, addresses this large population of women. This bill has received little attention. It is critical that UT students hear about this legislation as it would unjustly reduce Medicaid recipients’ access to medical information and resources.

HB 419 would automatically enroll women who are receiving Medicaid and have just given birth into a pilot program that provides women’s health services, with limitations. The bill requires that health care providers promote abstinence-only family planning methods to mothers who are not married and prohibits providers from offering emergency contraception options or referring women to abortion providers. It is troublesome that the women enrolled would not be asked whether they wished to participate. Women in Medicaid are, by the nature of their financial need, limited to the options the program provides and do not have the means to choose another health care program.

It is unethical to take advantage of mothers living in poverty to enact the culture wars of our entire community. If we truly want our legislators to restrict women’s access to medical information and resources, let us consider a bill that would affect Texas women across classes, not simply those without the resources to walk away. We would see a lot more coverage of a bill like that.

In the meantime, I urge students at UT who stand for social justice to contact Representative Naishtat, D-49. Naishtat is a member of the Human Services Committee, where this bill awaits a vote. He can be reached at P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768, 512 463-0668 or at <a href="">online via his webpage</a>.

— Sinda Nichols
Social work graduate student