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How little do the Republicans care about women’s health?

They don’t care at all.

An innovative women’s health initiative is heading toward oblivion over a legislative impasse between abortion rights opponents and supporters even though the program has nothing to do with abortions.

Unless renewed by law, the 5-year-old Medicaid Women’s Health Program will expire in December, ending contraceptive care and disease screening for 120,000 low-income women.

Sen. Bob Deuell , sponsor of the renewal bill, said Monday that he does not have enough support to bring the measure to the floor for a vote.

The sticking point is a provision designed to ensure that Planned Parenthood never participates in the program, which is intended to provide birth control to women who would qualify for taxpayer-supported Medicaid coverage if they were to become pregnant.

Deuell’s bill not only bans Planned Parenthood’s participation, it would also cancel the Women’s Health Program if the organization successfully sued to overturn the ban.

“It won’t pass the House without that in there,” said Deuell, R-Greenville.

But the so-called poison pill has also killed the bill’s chances in the Senate, Deuell added. “The Democrats here just can’t vote for it,” he said.

[…]

More than 120,000 low-income women participate in the health program, and state health officials say the effort saves state money — $21.4 million in 2008 — by reducing the number of Medicaid-financed births.

In addition to contraceptive care, participants are screened for cancer, diabetes, hypertension, anemia, sexually transmitted diseases and other conditions that could shorten their lives.

“I think it is a sad lack of leadership from the Texas Legislature that there’s no way to renew a program that is incredibly successful,” said Sarah Wheat with Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region.

You might think $21.4 million is a lot to waste on spite, but the Republicans in the legislature clearly don’t. I don’t even know what else to say. Perhaps now that a budget deal has been reached, there will be some resolution for this, though I don’t know what I’d root for. Lisa Falkenberg has more.

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