Every pro-family planning voter attracted by George W. Bush's performance at the Republican National Convention this summer should look to Texas. Eligible in Fiscal Year 1999 for Title XX funds that included family planning, Governor Bush managed nonetheless to dramatically cut family planning spending. We now have the interesting results: € Twenty thousand low-income Texas women were turned away from ob/gyn clinics in FY99. € Four thousand out of 20,000 women can no longer get care via Title XX funds at Planned Parenthood in Houston. € Of the 12,000 women each year who count on ob/gyn care from Title XX money from Planned Parenthood in Dallas, 2,040 will be turned away. However, in FY 1994 alone, family planning in Texas prevented more than 47,000 unwanted pregnancies among females under age 19, saving $92.4 million in Medicaid prenatal, delivery, newborn and infant care costs, according to the Texas State Department of Health. Bush has done back flips to appeal to his party's medieval view of women's health in an effort to make his less-than-ideologically-honest anti-choice stance palatable to single-issue Republican voters. Bush opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the woman's life, while the party is not ready to allow exceptions into the official platform. Unfortunately, Republicans create a greater need for abortion by diminishing access to federally funded family planning. A decrease in abortions correlates with an increase in family planning care, and numerous studies point to a causative relationship between family planning and fewer unwanted pregnancies. Why this eludes Republicans remains a mystery. Bush exploits his anti-family planning record while moving the party forward by giving his imprimatur for abortion if a woman can somehow prove rape, incest or that her life is in danger. For every dollar spent on family planning, however, taxpayers save $3.50 in Medicaid costs, according to the Texas Department of Health. Meanwhile, Texas women are driving farther for Pap smears, pre-natal care and contraceptive counseling or are simply skipping these altogether. The cost to women makes no difference. The cost to all taxpayers seems to have no political mileage. Republicans have long shown an aversion to family planning in an effort to remove access to choice, no matter the cost. In 1984, Ronald Reagan denied funding to overseas non-governmental organizations that "indirectly or directly engaged in abortion-related activities." Known as the "gag rule," it remained in effect through the Bush administration. Clinton granted a reprieve by allowing international health care practitioners to serve with the same regard for privacy that an American expects. But Congress in 1995 vowed to withhold United Nations funding until the gag rule returned. Threatened with anarchy as UN peacekeeping crumbled from debt, Clinton reinstated the global gag rule. Yet it did not slake the Republican thirst for blood. The younger Bush returned to the family and party tradition of gutting family planning in order to prevent a single abortion. Bush declared war upon women's health in Texas as his father did internationally by following Reagan's lead. Republicans seem convinced that if they make it impossible for any medical professional to practice women's health care, then abortion will suffocate. Unfortunately, so will the women who cannot find basic health care. While most sexually transmitted diseases burgeon, when women are the most rapidly growing group of new cases of HIV in the U.S., where is the logic? Perhaps Bush knows he can appeal to boomer conservatives who, like himself, woke up from Augustinian dissipation. Perhaps these Republicans found personal conversions of the sort that make appreciation of evidence-based medicine painful. Perhaps hypocrisy will always remain a permanent mine for political opportunists. Perhaps epidemiology fails to captivate the new Republican in the same way that it eluded the old guard. Perhaps the GOP found a candidate about whose record they are in denial. Ron Reagan, son of the Gipper, told The Nation that "the big white elephant in the room that no one will talk about is that the guy is not qualified for the job. What recommends him for the presidency, that he is no longer an obnoxious drunk?" A thin veneer of spin always splits away, and the real wood shows through. In the case of George W. Bush, the truth comes to the surface.Comments powered by Disqus
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