The New York Times defended the Texas branches of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, on the front page Thursday: "Women in Texas Losing Options For Health Care" was reported by Pam Belluck and Emily Ramshaw, a reporter for the Texas Tribune, which produces a twice-weekly local section for the Texas edition of the Times.
Ramshaw was last covered in Times Watch in January, lamenting the "bureaucratic nightmare" instigated by a pro-life law. (When was the last time the Times complained about overregulation?)
On Thursday the Times jumped on a personal anecdote of a poor mother having a hard time because of anti-choice Republicans in the Texas state house, while underselling the Planned Parenthood-abortion connection.
Leticia Parra, a mother of five scraping by on income from her husband’s sporadic construction jobs, relied on the Planned Parenthood clinic in San Carlos, an impoverished town in South Texas, for breast cancer screenings, free birth control pills and pap smears for cervical cancer.
But the clinic closed in October, along with more than a dozen others in the state, after financing for women’s health was slashed by two-thirds by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The cuts, which left many low-income women with inconvenient or costly options, grew out of the effort to eliminate state support for Planned Parenthood. Although the cuts also forced clinics that were not affiliated with the agency to close -- and none of them, even the ones run by Planned Parenthood, performed abortions -- supporters of the cutbacks said they were motivated by the fight against abortion.
Now, the same sentiment is likely to lead to a shutdown next week of another significant source of reproductive health care: the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which serves 130,000 women with grants to many clinics, including those run by Planned Parenthood. Gov. Rick Perry and Republican lawmakers have said they would forgo the $35 million in federal money that finances the women’s health program in order to keep Planned Parenthood from getting any of it.
The text box employed this loaded language to portray Texas as cutting off its nose to spite its face: "A state that's willing to give up $35 million to keep it from Planned Parenthood."
A 2009 Congressional Research Service report cited federal estimates that Title X helps prevent nearly a million unintended pregnancies annually. Reproductive health experts say that saves money, that every dollar spent on family planning saves about $4 in maternity and infant care.
Some experts also say the financing helps prevent about 400,000 abortions annually. Opponents of Title X and government financing of family planning say these effects are exaggerated.
“Eliminating Title X would not outlaw contraception,” said a spokesman for Ron Paul. “People would simply have to pay for contraceptives with their own money or money donated by private sources.”
The Times concluded with another poor woman undergoing hardship with multiple children:
Many San Carlos patients struggle to reach Edinburg from their homes in impoverished neighborhoods called colonias. Maria Romero, a housecleaner with four children, who had a lump in her breast discovered at the San Carlos clinic, has no way to get there.