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A case for funding women’s health care

Editorial - Houston ChronicleApril 16, 2013Articles

If you learned that by taking one single action you could improve the health and well-being of Texas children and families, significantly decrease school and work absenteeism, save Texas businesses money, save Texas cities and counties money, and raise the economic level of all Texas families, would you do it?

What if you learned the positive results of this one action were well-documented not just across Texas, but in every state in the U.S. and a wide variety of other countries as well? And that this one thing would help your mother, your partner, your sister, your daughter and the physician who might save your life in an emergency room?

Are you now interested, even eager, to take this one action with positive benefits for every Texan?

Prioritize and fund women’s health care in Texas. It is that simple. Prioritize and fund women’s health care in Texas.

In the previous Texas legislative session, women’s health care funding was slashed by 66 percent and more than 147,000 women lost access to preventive care, cancer screenings and family planning services. Many of these were lower-income, working women who went to work sick because they had no access to care, missed work to drive to other communities to find care, or simply went without critical health care.

In the two years since the Legislature de-funded Texas women’s health services, the number of low-income women giving birth and experiencing high-risk pregnancies has increased, thus significantly increasing the burden on Texas counties’ indigent care services and the now state-funded Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) services for low-income babies and pregnant women.

While the Legislature’s de-funding intent may have been to address abortion services, the actual result is a lack of access to family planning, prenatal care and preventive care. Women with access to health care are able to make better choices for themselves and their families. They have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies. They have access to contraceptives that enable them to truly control their family planning. And they have access to preventive health screenings that keep them healthy and able to provide for their families. When these options are taken away, women, their families and communities pay the price!

How can any of us deny the incredible life-affirming power of a healthy woman? As wife, mother, and/or grandmother, she keeps us healthy and makes sure we grow to reach our full potential. As our employee or employer, she goes the second and third mile to make sure we and our businesses succeed. When Texas women are healthy, everyone around prospers – families, businesses, communities.

Right now, the Texas Legislature is making decisions that will have an impact on all women and their individual health care needs.

They must hear from each of us that women’s access to quality health care is a universal, nonpartisan value and is key to women being productive members of the workforce, as well as critical to enabling Texas women to continue the essential roles they play in our families. Texas simply cannot afford to ignore or politicize women’s health issues any longer.

The Women’s Health Initiative of Texas was created to leverage the collective strength and power of women in order to identify and implement solutions for strengthening women’s health care. Join us in taking this message – prioritize and fund women’s health care in Texas – to our representatives in Austin. One single action; maximum impact for Texas.

Carol Paret is chief community benefits officer for Memorial Hermann Healthcare System. Katherine Stackel is executive director of Women’s Fund for Health Education and Research. Laurie Glaze is executive director of One Voice Texas.

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