Women's Health

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

A state rule that forces Planned Parenthood out of Texas' Women's Health Program takes effect today, and in response, the Obama administration is preparing to halt federal funding for the program. But the change won't be immediate: Texas health officials say it will take a few weeks to transition to a fully state-run program from one that had been 90-percent funded by the federal government. 

Since the standoff between Texas and the federal government erupted over the state's decision to write clinics "affiliated" with abortion providers out of the Women's Health Program, abortion opponents have argued that there are thousands of more comprehensive health care providers available to take Planned Parenthood's place. By law, none of the clinics enrolled in the five-year-old program were performing abortions.

image courtesy facebook.com/vday.austin

February 14 was nearly a month ago, but this weekend Austin women are celebrating V-Day.

In this case V doesn’t just stand for Valentine: It also stands for "Victory" and "Vagina."

Two performances of “The Vagina Monologues” are showing at the 29 Street Ballroom this weekend. Originally written by Eve Ensler in 1994, the play – a series of monologues varying in tone and touching on topics including sexuality, reproductive issues, rape and female empowerment – has been continually updated over the years with new stories.  

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The state's health commissioner is blasting the Obama administration's argument that it can't renew a joint state-federal health program because Republican lawmakers have banned Planned Parenthood from participating in it. 

In an uncharacteristically angry letter sent to Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs argues that if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) won't let Texas exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program, "then no state can ever confidently apply policies and requirements that advance important and legitimate state interests to regulate providers' participation in Medicaid." 

The Senate has turned back an attempt to kill President Obama's new rules requiring most health insurance plans to provide contraceptives without additional cost.

The 51-48 vote against an amendment to an unrelated highway bill (Yes, that's just how the Senate works) was mostly along party lines.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Two of the Legislature's top public health leaders are defending Republican lawmakers’ pledge to end the entire Women's Health Program rather than allow Planned Parenthood to participate. The joint state-federal reproductive health program provides contraception and cancer screenings — but not abortions — to 130,000 poor Texans, many of them at Planned Parenthood clinics.

"I guess we all need to see what it looks like when we don’t have it, and then we may need to regroup at that point," said state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, the chairwoman of the House Public Health Committee. "If we lose the Women’s Health Program, obviously, it’s got to be the top of our list in 2013 to look at and open up the conversation again and move forward because it is a safety net for so many women."

Photo courtesy flickr.com/thestarshine

Texas has joined six other states challenging the constitutionality of the federal mandate that requires contraceptive coverage in all employee healthcare benefits.

A fracas erupted earlier this month when Catholic organizations protested a requirement in the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care reforms, that employer health insurance would cover contraception. The Texas Tribune reports:

Pages