Delia Henry, 31, was uninsured after she lost her job last year. She went back to school at Austin Community College and enrolled in the Women's Health Program.
“The WHP has allowed me to come in for testing as well as birth control, giving me an opportunity to plan my family and prepare myself better for a family while I’m in school,” Henry said.
Henry was among a crowd that gathered Friday at the Planned Parenthood Health Center in Austin to express their concerns over a Texas Health and Human Services Commission rule excluding Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women's Health Program.
The WHP is an extension of the Medicaid program, and is a federally funded program that delivers $9 from the feds for every $1 spent by Texas on women’s health. When Texas decided to exclude Planned Parenthood, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed HHSC that it would be violating the guidelines of the program and would be ineligible to receive federal funding. That would mean the end of the program, which provides services to about 130,000 Texas women.
“It’s another attack on women’s health. We’ve seen it at the national level and at the local level,” said Dr. Scott Spear, Planned Parenthood region medical director.
One of the advantages of the WHP, Spear said, is that it not only provided birth control pills, but also long-acting, reversible contraceptions like IUDs and implants, which cost more up front but last for years and are more effective. Spears said there are also non-contraceptive uses for contraception, including helping women to manage heavy menstrual flows, decreasing the painful symptoms of endometriosis and decreasing the risk of ovarian cancer.
Zephyr Jarmon, 21, said some of the recent inflammatory debate over contraception has been offensive to women.
“I try not to react to it personally," Jarmon said. "But it is offensive to women everywhere that they should be looked down upon for trying to make their life better and to try to be more prepared for things that are going to happen to them, and for trying to be more educated.”
In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Strauss, HHSC Commissioner Tom Suehs recently said that by disqualifying Texas from the program, the federal government was overstepping its bounds. Perry has chided the federal government over its decision to disqualify Texas from the program, saying the Obama administration is putting its pro-abortion agenda ahead of women's health.