Governor Rick Perry, it may shock you to learn, is not such a big fan of abortion. Perry vowed some time ago to create a new, Texas-run version of the Women's Health Program, one that would ban doctors from discussing or "promoting" abortion with their patients. It would also explicitly bar Planned Parenthood from participating. PP is also now blocked from the mostly federally-funded, Medicaid-run WHP. The government program will end soon, with the proposed state program taking its place, costing Texas taxpayers $39,132,223 in 2013.
But what type of clinic is Rick Perry-approved to take over for Planned Parenthood? It might look a lot like The Source for Women - Spring Branch, a new medical clinic in Houston that had its ribbon-cutting ceremony this week, and where Perry was a keynote speaker . The governor sang the praises of the clinic, which will offer every medical service a women needs, provided that she's healthy, doesn't need birth control, doesn't want to talk about abortion, and along with her pap smear, is prepared for a significant amount of encouragement to "know Jesus, the giver of all life."
The Source for Women has been around the Houston area for some 30 years. Unlike Spring Branch, its other two locations are garden-variety crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).
CPCs, which are not medical clinics, offer store-bought pregnancy tests and faith-based, sometimes medically questionable, counseling that's designed to encourage women not to abort. They're found throughout Texas, including in the Dallas area; $8 million of the money taken from family planning services in Texas' last legislative session went to fund CPCs. In an audit last year, the Texas Pregnancy Care Network, which oversees the centers, found numerous violations, including billing errors, violations of client privacy, fire safety, and in 15 percent of cases, a failure to properly label religious versus educational materials. In 2010, TPCN had to retrain Source staff after they sought reimbursement for 56 ineligible clients.
In some ways, the Spring Branch location seems encouraging, in that there will be actual doctors on-site and actual medical services offered, including Well Woman exams, breast exams, and STD counseling, albeit with what looks like a heavy emphasis on abstinence. After a baby is born, additional counseling services are offered through the child's first birthday. They don't currently offer birth control (CPCs don't ever offer it, as many Christian groups believe that it's equivalent to having an abortion), but Source CEO Cynthia Wenz told us it may be possible some day.
"We're not offering birth control now. However, I know you guys are a liberal media," she said. "I know you'll do liberal reporting. We'll just call it what it is. I'm not blind to know what's in demand to our clients." She added that the Source board has agreed to "allow me to research and develop our services list" to possibly include birth control. For anything other than basic Well Woman exams, she said the center can refer women elsewhere. Wenz has had three abortions, she told us, at the ages of 15, 19, and 29. In her last procedure, in which she was pregnant with twins, one fetus survived. Her son, Roman, is now 16.
Perry used the Spring Branch ribbon-cutting to reaffirm his distaste for abortion, telling the audience, "We've banned the use of your tax dollars for abortion procedures in Texas, and expanded that ban to include those affiliated with abortion providers in the case of our Women's Health Program. That upset more than a few people in Washington, who insisted we financially support organizations like Planned Parenthood by including them in the WHP." (In fact, Texas was "financially supporting" the WHP to the tune of $1 for every $9 the federal government provided.)
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"We've stood strong in the face of that assault, and proclaimed the truth that protecting the rights of abortion providers and protecting women's health are not the same thing," Perry continued. "The Source for Women clinics, in fact, will be part of Texas' own Women's Health Program, and Planned Parenthood will not be."
Perry told the crowd that "your good work doesn't end with the women you help, and the children you save. Instead, it becomes part of the movement to make abortion a thing of the past, a movement that grows stronger with each success story you produce, with the promise of every child born who would've died without your assistance.
"Places like The Source for Women are cornerstones in the creation of a world without abortion, a place where each child is born healthy, happy, and as part of a loving family."
The Source tries to ensure that those children are born, anyway. For all the other stuff, we're sure they can refer you somewhere else.