groceries needed to fulfill the 20,000 assistance requests per month that the committee says go unmet. Another portion of Parmer’s legislation would channel $5 million into food assistance for the elderly. A committee survey, done in conjunction with the Texas Department on Aging, found at least 22,000 elderly Texans in need of home-delivered meals. The state funds would be used to expand services to include elderly people recently discharged from hospitals and low-income persons now on project waiting lists. Again, state funds would be restricted to food costs; local organizations would absorb all administrative expenses. The biggest dollar item in Parmer’s bill would pump state funds into the WIC Program, or special supplemental food program for women, infants, and children. “We are asking for the full $12 million supplemental state WIC appropriation, with no match, no nothing,” asserts Parmer. “We think it ought to be done.” If fully funded, his request would bring the WIC Program to another 30,000 of the estimated 635,000 Texas women and children at nutritional risk. In addition to creating new food programs, Parmer’s legislation aims at administrative reform of the Food Stamp program. Parmer is particularly bothered by habitual delays in the provision of emergency food stamps to the most destitute households; his bill requires the Texas Department of Human Resources in one working day. “I think we have really gotten their attention over there on the expedited need issue,” says the Senator. “I have every reason to believe that they’re going to make some major changes in policies in terms of dealing with those emergency situations.” In an effort to make food stamps more accessible for the state’s hungry, Parmer’s Omnibus Hunger Act also proposes other changes in program operations. The bill would institute pilot projects for food stamp outreach information and referral, including the training of volunteers in screening applicants, and would require TDHR to try opening food stamp offices on evenings and weekends. These ideas were tested successfully as the result of federal initiatives in 1978 and 1979 but abandoned due to state resistance and the diminution of federal funding. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? Proposed reductions in federal food assistance for 1986 and years beyond would short-circuit Parmer’s plan to alleviate hunger in the state. Any state monies committed to hunger relief may turn out to be replacement funds rather than supplements. Already, the Reagan administration has taken unilateral action to impound federal WIC Program appropriations. Texas may be shorted as much as $6 million in fiscal year 1985, and though the state Department of Health has officially taken a “waitand-see” attitude, WIC caseload freezes or cuts are imminent unless the full amount of federal dollars is released. Parmer characterizes his $20 million request for state funds as “a drop in the bucket. . . . If we were to attempt, by legislative waving of the wand, to solve the problem of hunger in Texas in its totality . . . we’d be talking in terms of $75 million. The problem is going to get worse unless we take some action at the state level to deal with it,” he emphasizes. Although the chances that the legislature will approve state funding are dim, Parmer must be commended for his efforts to publicize the hunger problem. “I praise him for the time and effort that he put into it,” says Senator Farabee. “I think Senator Parmer has done a better job than anyone I would have anticipated to bring home the fact that there is hunger and malnutrition in Texas.” With the fact-finding phase of his work behind him, Parmer’s real challenge convincing his colleagues to do something to end hunger lies ahead. In order to achieve any progress, Parmer must continue to cajole other legislators and remind them of the eye-opening situation he uncovered. “Too often,” comments Senator Barrientos, “we who are not in that plight get very wrapped up in our own day-to-day problems, and we tend to forget how much it hurts.” CI Austin IN THE SPRING of 1965, Life Magazine published a series of unprecedented photographs for its April 30 cover story. The photos, taken by Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson, presented the public with its first glimpse of the human fetus at various stages of development. Entitled “Drama Of Life Before Birth,” Nilsson’s work represented the first portrait ever made of a living embryo inside its mother’s womb. The issue quickly sold out; it was then made into a book. After viewing the photographs, one gynecologist was quoted in the issue T. L. Langford is an editorial intern at the Observer. as saying, “This is like the first look at the back side of the moon.” Eight years later, on January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 72 decision ruled in favor of a Texas woman, called “Jane Roe,” affirming her right to have an abortion. The defense arguments in Roe v. Wade presented by Texas lawyers Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee were based on both the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments ensuring citizenship rights. Now, twelve years after the Supreme Court decision, the abortion issue is far from decided and once again the public’s attention has been captured by a photographic peek into the womb. A new film of an abortion in progress is being used by the pro-life forces, while other recent developments in the longrunning battle the clinic bombings, new medical techniques, and the conservative trends in American social and political arenas have intensified the debate. An ever louder chorus demands absolute answers to insoluble questions. Amidst all this, the issue is back in the Texas Legislature again. Every dog has its day and every session has its abortion bills. In past sessions, most legislators have considered abortion bills to be deadly pieces of legislation that could eventually cost a seat in the next election. During this session an identical set of bills has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, and both have already been referred to committees. Unlike past bills of this ilk, Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Senators John Sharp, D-Victoria, and Bob McFarland, RArlington, and House Bill 486, sponsored by Representatives L. B. Kubiak, D-Rockdale, and Jan McKenna, RArlington, appear to have a good chance of passing in both chambers. Playing to the Grandstand Abortion Bills and Smokescreens By T. L. Langford 12 FEBRUARY 22, 1985
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