The Lege That Rocks the Cradle


Eileen Smith

Some women may argue that this hasn’t been a good session for women, which is their right, at least for now. But all Texas women should feel secure in the knowledge that male legislators are making decisions for them, since they obviously can’t be trusted to make them on their own.

Take family planning, for instance. Funding was gutted in the House version after conservative lawmakers expressed their certainty that the money would be used for coerced abortions, encouraged by the overzealous pro-choice movement. (Both federal and state law specifically prohibit funding for abortions through family planning.) Although family planning grants provide low-income and uninsured women with physical exams, contraception, screenings and other necessary medical services, conservatives couldn’t help but see a sinister plot.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on its version of the budget—which spends roughly $12 million more on family planning than the House—next week. Defying the House budget, which stripped family planning by more than $60 million, the Senate version would restore much of the funding for clinics such as Planned Parenthood. That’s outrageous. Everyone knows that Planned Parenthood spends all their money handing out free condoms like candy.

An amendment by Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, diverts more than $8 million in family planning funding to anti-abortion and abstinence programs and crisis pregnancy centers. Another amendment sponsored by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, and Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Mesquite—hey, women are on board too!—would require that $12 million in tax dollars and grants be distributed by “priority.” In other words, the provision ensures that the money has to go to public clinics first, while independent clinics like Planned Parenthood, which provide most of the family planning services, get what’s left over. 

Meanwhile Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, proposed an amendment to divert family planning funds to services for the deaf, blind and disabled, telling his colleagues that he’d be “defunding the abortion industry.” (Helping the deaf, blind and disabled is apparently just a bonus.)

There’s a general theme here. Conservatives don’t care where they’re putting the money as long as they can take it out of family planning. According to Planned Parenthood’s 2008-2009 annual report, For 3 million patients seen, “[W]e provided contraception (36 percent of our total services), testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (31 percent), cancer screening and prevention (17 percent), and abortion services (three percent)”. But since the Legislature has had so much fun sticking it to the poor, disadvantaged, and uninsured this session, why stop now? Legislators in Kansas and Indiana have tentatively approved budgets that would strip funding from Planned Parenthood, which would make them the first states in the nation to do so.

Not if we get there first.