Rick Perry has been on a crusade to limit access to reproductive health care in Texas, and so far, it’s been going pretty well for him. Especially in regards to Planned Parenthood, notorious hotbed of sin, which he’s trying to run out of the state. Last week, we got a taste of what he envisions as the perfect future of reproductive health services in Texas, and it’s terrifying.
In many ways, it honestly reminds me of a dystopian novel:
Tiffany Pardue, The Source’s Media Coordinator, took me on a quick tour of the facilities. They were stylish and lovely, with indirect lighting, sepia flower photographs printed on canvas, and pink, olive and brown painted accent stripes on the wall. One could see why Wenz had claimed when women first walk into The Source they’d breathe a sigh of relief. Pardue showed me the counseling suites, exam rooms, and ultrasound rooms, called “Window to the Womb.” These each featured or will feature a 46-inch flat-screen plasma TV mounted directly in front of the exam bed.
Is anyone else creeped out by this fetishisation of idealised pregnancy? Because I am seriously creeped out by it. Writer Emily Deprang is describing The Source for Women, a crisis pregnancy center in Houston that was honoured by a visit from the governor for a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week. Perry stressed that he sees the group as the future of reproductive health in Texas, and he’s delighted to be part of it.
“The opening of this latest medical center will enable you to spread your message,” he said, “and do your vital work, on a significantly larger scale in the years to come.”
The organisation provides no contraceptives, doesn’t employ any OB-GYNS, and doesn’t offer pap smears. Nor does it offer referrals to facilities that provide contraception and abortion services. This despite the fact that in order to participate in the Women’s Health Program, which is their eventual goal so they can access funding and more government support, they must provide contraception services and pap smears.
Evidently a board is going to decide which contraceptives the group will provide in order to qualify for membership in the WHP; and keep in mind that groups like The Source are under the mistaken impression that a number of contraceptives are in fact ‘abortifacients.’ That includes hormonal birth control, a very common standard in contraception because it tends to be, well, highly effective and appropriate for a lot of patients. When you’re throwing out a whole class of contraceptives, you’re limiting options for patients from the very start.
Patients seeking to prevent pregnancy need access to the full range of options, and they need unbiased counseling about everything that’s available, not ‘counseling’ from people determined to impose their own ideology on private medical choices. Neutral information allows them to make informed decisions about the most appropriate method for their needs, given their medical records, situations, and other factors.
A team of board members shouldn’t limit which choices are available to patients, dictating potentially unsafe and inappropriate options. For low-income patients who are obliged to use the services of CPCs, there are no other options. No alternatives to misinformation, and no opportunity for an unbiased conversation. No chance at accessing the most appropriate care for their needs. And it’s deeply disturbing to see Perry quite gleefully announcing that he wants to limit reproductive choice for low-income Texans by severely restricting the kinds of organisations that get assistance.
So, what does The Source provide? Exactly what you think it does; ‘counseling’ to compel patients to carry pregnancies to term. There is nothing in the organisation’s plans for helping patients prevent pregnancy. Limited sexual health services and parenting classes are available (including some courses in Spanish), but the focus is not on a full range of services. Nor does it appear to be on outreach to immigrant communities and working with migrant women; the Spanish classes look like more of an afterthought than a genuine attempt to consider the cultural, social, and political needs of Latinas in Texas, nor do they mention other patients of colour who might need assistance.
The Source is not interested in helping patients determine the timing and spacing of their children, in helping them prevent pregnancy, and in helping people deal with unwanted pregnancies in any way other than having the baby. And Perry is quite proud to be advancing that message and to be throwing the support of the state government behind it; he envisions a world without Planned Parenthood in Texas, and one where groups like The Source receive funds that are supposed to be dedicated to reproductive health care.
And that world seems closer to realisation than ever before, thanks to the rising tide of support for Perry and his extremist proposals in Texas. As attendees of the grand opening swanned around in demure dresses and listened to impassioned anti-choice speeches, they patted themselves on the back for all their accomplishments, and were particularly proud of the placement of the clinic in a low-income community. They might claim it’s because they want to serve the unfortunate, but it has a lot more to do with exploiting vulnerable people and with winning converts.
When you’re frightened and in need of help and you have no money, it seems like there’s always a CPC ready to talk to you. And in Texas, Perry wants to make sure that CPCs are the first line of ‘care’ for patients seeking assistance with reproductive health needs, which is laying the groundwork for even more virulent anti-choice sentiment in the state. As groups like this rise, other clinics that actually provide a full range of services will slowly be forced to raise prices and cut their hours to compensate, setting them on the path to eventual closure, leaving fewer and fewer options for people who need them.
Perry will undoubtedly be proud of himself for lowering the abortion rate in Texas as a result, while patients die of inadequate care, desperate measures undertaken in an attempt to end unwanted pregnancies, and bad choices made on the basis of incomplete, biased information. And, of course, this is a model that many other states will be looking to, putting a throttlehold on access to reproductive health care across the United States.