Five years ago, Cynthia Wilson says, she was uninsured when she discovered lumps in her breast and abdomen. So she made an appointment at Planned Parenthood, where a doctor performed a biopsy and said she had ovarian cancer. From there, Wilson says, Planned Parenthood referred her to get chemotherapy and surgery at Parkland Hospital, through a separate program for people without insurance.
Now cancer-free, Wilson volunteers as a spokesman for Planned Parenthood, trying to convince people that Planned Parenthood clinics actually offer services that aren't abortions, like cancer-screenings. "Up until then," she says of her diagnosis, "all I had heard was just the worst things about Planned Parenthood." Wilson also tells her story in a Change.org petition to save cancer-screenings for poor women.
Planned Parenthood is worried about what will happen to the cancer screening program that Wilson benefited from by the time Texas lawmakers get through with next year's budget. In addition to Wilson's petition, Planned Parenthood recently launched its own site and campaign to save its screenings in Texas.
At issue are two proposed state budgets in the House and Senate. Senator Jane Nelson, the Flower Mound "Citizen of the Year" and the Senate's chief budget-writer, has drafted a budget that would change the way that breast and cervical cancer screenings for poor women are funded. Currently, health clinics in Texas provide breast and cervical cancer screenings to uninsured women based on location, under a federally funded program. Nelson's budget, as we reported, rearranges the funding order, placing non-public clinics like Planned Parenthood as the lowest priority for receiving the federal funds. The point of her budget, Nelson has said, is to keep the cancer-screening funds away from abortion providers. (In case you needed a refresher, taxpayer money doesn't actually go to abortions, but Texas lawmakers like to ignore that point).
In the House, representatives recently passed a budget, drafted by Representative John Otto, using similar language to rearrange how the cancer-screening funds are distributed. According to Otto's budget, public hospitals and clinics run by the Baylor College of Medicine would get first dibs on the cancer screenings funds, and "non-public" entities, (e.g., Planned Parenthood) would fall to the bottom. The new funding method must not "severely limit or eliminate access to services to any region," the House budget says. But Planned Parenthood argues that rearranging the funding based on clinic type instead of location would do just that. Planned Parenthood Texas spokeswoman Kelly Hart says its Texas clinics risk getting blocked from participating in the cancer-screening program under the budget proposals. "Many Planned Parenthood health centers have had this funded program in place for nearly 20 years," she says in an email.
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.