At my first faculty meeting 30 years ago, after moving from Boston, I found it curious when my boss announced, "Hide the women and children — the state legislature is in session!"
Jumping ahead to now, all I can say is some things never change.
The last couple of years have been especially devastating for Texas women and children. Facing tremendous budget deficits, the state threw the most vulnerable of us — our children — under the bus by drastically cutting billions of dollars from public education, health care and social services.
It’s been even worse for Texas women. Beginning this month, Texas women seeking an abortion can now be legally “raped." It’s called the Texas sonogram law. You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about — rape? Well, a law passed by a tea party state legislature (composed of a bunch of middle-age white guys) and signed by Perry as an “emergency measure," requires doctors to perform a sonogram on any woman seeking an abortion.
Well, where’s “the rape” you say? It’s just a sonogram: A little jelly on the belly, snap a few pictures and you’re on your way.
Not so fast.
Our vagina intruders in Austin are not as dumb as they may seem. What they failed to mention in the law was that the belly ultrasound might not be sensitive enough to pick up the fetal heart beat that you’re required to hear by law. A more sensitive ultrasound may be needed.
Now, here’s where the “rape” comes in — I’m talking about the trans-vaginal ultrasound. It’s a “probe” that’s inserted into the vagina to pick up the fetal heart beat. This is the very same procedure that caused all the rage in Virginia’s ultrasound law last week. Yes, Texas has a similar state sanctioned medical procedure. Sounds a lot like mandated health care doesn't it?
The Texas law went into effect a couple of weeks ago and once word gets out, Texas women hopefully will follow their Virginia sisters and express their outrage over being legally required, against their will and without their consent, to undergo an unnecessary medical procedure. Just imagine having to go through this after being sexually assaulted.
This bunch of so-called pro-lifers — Perry and the Texas Right to Life folks — only care about the fetus. If they really gave a damn about life, wouldn't they do something about teen pregnancy?
Texas has the third highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country (a state where abstinence rules in public school health classes), the lowest rate of children’s health insurance, one of the highest rates of poverty, the highest rates of minimum-wage jobs that do not provide health insurance or the financial means to raise a family and one of the lowest standards of education in the country? Does any of that sound pro-life?
Perry is continuing his assault on women’s health. Last week he enacted a new rule banning state funds from going to any health center affiliated with any group that offers abortions. The measure will effectively end the Women's Health Program in our state which provides 160,000 low-income women the basic reproductive health care services they need, like screenings for cervical and breast cancer, and pre-natal care and family planning, because federal law prohibits states from discriminating against specific providers in the allocation of Medicaid.
Unless some agreement changes things, the program, which receives $9 in federal funding for every $1 in state spending, will be either phased out or cut off by the end of March, throwing low-income women under the bus. And I haven’t even touched upon what Washington wants to do with birth control under the guise of religious freedom. So much for compassionate conservatism.
The far right wants you to believe these cuts to women’s health care have to do with preventing abortions and saving lives. Don’t believe it — by law, public funds have never been able to be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.
Women have the right to plan pregnancies so they can continue their educations, pursue their careers, support their families, and achieve their life goals. And old white guys shouldn’t be allowed to tell them otherwise.
Kreisberg is a Texas health care consultant.