Through her divorce and the struggles of raising three girls on her salary at the Sonic Drive-In, there was one thing in Tanya Wilson’s life that came easy.
Every three months, Wilson drove to the Planned Parenthood in her Panhandle hometown to get a birth control shot for free, most times with little or no wait. It was a great relief for a 34-year-old woman who didn’t want any more children but lacked money for a tubal ligation.
Suddenly in January, her relief turned to stress. Wilson was among hundreds of patients across 17 counties who learned that the clinic they relied on for birth control, annual exams, Pap tests, breast cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease tests and other services was closing because of funding cuts triggered by two little-known provisions tucked into the state’s budget last session.
She’s been pleading with the town’s only remaining family planning clinic, which has been picking up other patients, to see her. She’s one of many who hasn’t had a Pap test in the past year because it would require driving an hour to the Amarillo Planned Parenthood.
She doesn’t know how she’d get there. Besides the job and the kids, her 1992 Honda Accord smokes, leaks oil and probably couldn’t make the trip.
“I work, and I’ve got three girls already. I don’t need no more kids,” said Wilson, who is being abstinent with her live-in boyfriend because she’s a month late on her shot. “I don’t understand why they would close (the clinic). It’s just caused a lot of grief for a lot of women.”
Women are facing similar scenarios across Texas, as traditional family planning providers such as Planned Parenthood cut hours, staff and programs, even close doors, in response to new provisions that siphoned off tens of millions of family planning dollars for other programs and providers.
How bad is this situation? This bad:
One of the House’s most conservative Republicans, veteran Panhandle Rep. Warren Chisum, who helped pass the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and longs to outlaw abortion in Texas, joined efforts to thwart the provisions before they passed. He’s still hoping Panhandle funding will be restored.
“I’m not for abortion. I’m pro-life. But I’m not anti-women’s health,” Chisum said. ”You have your mixed emotions about it, but actually, in the Texas Panhandle, they don’t perform abortions, so it’s unfortunate that they’re one of the ones that got their funds cut.”
When Warren freaking Chisum says you’ve gone too far, you’ve really really gone too far.
Yet Republican Senate Finance Chairman Bill Ogden is skeptical of the outcries, saying the complaints seem more about “turf protection and employee protection” than denying women services.
“There is not a single piece of evidence that anybody has offered to suggest that those changes have hurt an individual out there,” said Ogden, of Bryan. “I would argue that it could have conceivably helped.”
Here’s Senator Ogden’s official state webpage, which has a contact form on it, and here’s his campaign webpage. I can’t find an email address on either, but there’s plenty of phone numbers to call if you want to ask him if he’s read this article. (His name is Steve, by the way, not Bill.) Do feel free to enlighten him.