Democrats ask Biden to protect reproductive health care in Texas

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Democrats are looking to restore access to basic health care at Planned Parenthood, which Republicans in Texas have blocked completely.

Right now, people in Texas are facing an unprecedented assault on reproductive health rights. However, Democratic legislators in the state are working to reinstate access to care. 

Earlier this week, the Texas Observer reported that 71 Democratic legislators have asked the Biden administration to require the state to reinstate Planned Parenthood as a provider. 

Texas spent five years trying to stop Medicaid patients from accessing basic health care through Planned Parenthood, and they succeeded earlier this year. Currently, people in Texas who must use Medicaid coverage for their health care needs can't go to Planned Parenthood, period.

As of 2019, 17% of Texans relied on Medicaid for their healthcare. Though Texas has always fixated on Planned Parenthood's status as an abortion provider, Planned Parenthood clinics provide substantial non-abortion services, including STD testing, birth control, and screening for cancer. Moreover, it isn't necessary to shut down access to Planned Parenthood to prevent Medicaid dollars from being used for abortions, as that is already prohibited

When Texas stripped away access to Planned Parenthood, it promised that such a move would have no effect on access for lower-income people, but that simply isn't true. Only 30% of ob-gyn doctors in the state accept new Medicaid patients. 

The Observer reported that Democratic legislators are calling upon the Biden administration "to enforce a federal requirement that patients have a free choice of provider" and require GOP Governor Greg Abbott to reinstate Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider. 

Texas isn't the only state where this is at issue. In Missouri, Democratic Rep. Cori Bush has also asked the administration to enforce the same federal Medicaid provision so that low-income patients in Missouri can access care at Planned Parenthood. Missouri hasn't been able to bar access to Planned Parenthood in the same way that Texas has, but conservative lawmakers are tightening rules there in an attempt to strip those clinics of Medicaid funding.

Inspectors in the state are now required to report any rule violations on the part of abortion clinics directly to Medicaid authorities. Many of these rules, however, have nothing to do with abortion, and instead Planned Parenthood could be stripped of Medicaid funding over minor infractions such as failing to have all employees partake in a fire drill annually. 

In their zeal to restrict abortion, states like Missouri and Texas are willing to do a grave disservice to low-income individuals who need basic health care, such as breast cancer screening. 

In contrast, both the administration and Democrats in Congress have also focused on addressing maternal health issues. The first "momnibus" bill, providing additional health care support for pregnant and postpartum veterans, has already been signed into law. The House has also passed the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which would extend Medicaid coverage for 12 months after birth and provide paid family leave, 

It is unknown whether the Biden administration will step in to enforce these Medicaid rules, but the administration has already made clear that it will take steps to abortion access by suing Texas over S.B. 8, its six-week abortion ban. With the requests from Texas state legislators and Bush in Missouri, the administration has another opportunity to strengthen its commitment to protecting reproductive health.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.