While Cecile Richards offered testimony, under oath, about Planned Parenthood’s medical operations to lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning — by which I mean Ann Richards’ daughter sat there like a stone-cold superwoman while anti-abortion legislators bellowed about baby parts and berated her for, basically, existing — Texas’ own Congressman Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, hopped on Twitter to share some helpful information about where Texans can get pap smears besides Planned Parenthood.
Like, for example, the Children’s Clinic of Dimmit. Or perhaps the Eagle Pass Pediatric Health Clinic is providing a lot of low-cost herpes screenings these days. Maybe I’ll go ahead and get my IUD inserted at, say, the Seton Highland Lakes Care-A-Van, a mobile children’s clinic that provides asthma treatment and immunizations.
Those are just a few of the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC’s) and rural health clinics in Texas that Farenthold, via the right-wing group Alliance Defending Freedom, claims can pick up the more than 150,000 Texas patients who currently choose to go to Planned Parenthood for federally funded reproductive health care — none of which involves abortion services — under Medicaid and Title X.
Congressman Duckie Pajamas thinks Texans are supposed to go to a children’s clinic on wheels for their Depo shots? Sure, why not. Nothing else about how lawmakers are handling the latest attacks on Planned Parenthood makes any damn sense; there’s no reason this should, either.
Fact-checking this chicanery is getting more than a little old. I started looking into lawmakers’ claims about whether non-Planned Parenthood providers could accommodate the organization’s patients back in 2011, when Texas made its first serious effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Back then, it was another old white guy — Texas Representative Dan Flynn, R-Van — who told me I could get my high-risk HPV treated at any number of FQHC’s in the Dallas area. I called his bluff.
Then, in 2012, after Texas ousted Planned Parenthood from participating in state-funded family planning programs, I widened my scope. I called dozens of health care providers trying to find out when, or if, they could squeeze in low-income patients who relied on the state for reproductive health care. The upshot? I mined a list of supposed reproductive health care providers, rife with duplicate and incorrect entries, only to find myself asking for a pap smear at a colonoscopy clinic.
In the years since, Texas bureaucrats and lawmakers have continued to claim that non-Planned Parenthood providers can pick up the slack, only to have their own numbers show that fewer patients received publicly funded reproductive health care than before Planned Parenthood’s ouster, and at a higher cost to taxpayers per patient. Nevertheless, they brag that Texas is really doing a bang-up job serving its poorest residents.
The latest attacks on Planned Parenthood are happening at the federal level, as anti-abortion lawmakers rend their expensive suits over doctored videos produced by right-wing extremists. But I don’t need a congressional hearing to find out what happens when low-income folks can’t access health care with the provider of their choosing. I live in Texas, after all. We already know: higher costs, fewer patients served, more rights restricted.