Texas Women Needed Help From the Legislature. They Didn't Get It.

Maybe the money can go to a group that can actually help now.EXPAND
Maybe the money can go to a group that can actually help now.
Vasyl Dolmatov
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More than 25% of Texas women between ages 18 and 44 don't have health insurance coverage. That's one of the biggest takeaways from a new study into the effects of Medicaid expansion on maternal health from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. Texas' uninsured rate for women of child-bearing age is the highest in the United States, just like the state's overall uninsured rate.

It doesn't have to be this way.

This legislative session, Texas' House and Senate had multiple chances to expand Medicaid coverage — covering thousands of additional Texans — by as much or as little as they wanted to. Dallas Democratic state Sen. Nathan Johnson filed a bill that would've allowed Texas voters to decide whether the state accepted the 9-to-1 federal matching funds that come with expanding the low-income insurance program, while House Bill 744, written by Dallas Democratic state Rep. Toni Rose, would've covered low-income mothers via Medicaid for 12 months after giving birth, a key step toward addressing Texas' maternal mortality rate.

According to the study, states that expanded Medicaid experienced 1.6 fewer maternal deaths per 100,000 women than those that passed on expansion.

Rose's bill passed the House 87-43 but didn't make it to the Senate floor, failing to receive as much as a committee vote from the upper chamber.

“No mother should lose her life or her child because she didn’t get the care she needed before, during or after pregnancy,” Laura Guerra-Cardus, deputy director of Children’s Defense Fund – Texas, said last week. “We’re deeply disappointed that our state leaders have once again failed to support the health of Texas moms in low-wage jobs and the health of their babies. As this research shows, denying health coverage to so many Texas women has serious — and sometimes deadly — consequences for them and their babies.”

Rather than passing even a small expansion of Medicaid, something that's supported by a majority of Texans, according to a 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation report, the legislature instead focused on several laws that will have adverse outcomes on women's health.

Senate Bill 22, a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, will stop any Texas municipality from partnering in any way with abortion providers. The bill specifically targets a Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin — one that doesn't provide abortions — that's been around for decades and has a $1-a-year lease from the city of Austin. Once Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs the bill and it goes into effect, the clinic and all the healthcare services it provides will be a thing of the past.

The legislature's other big "women's health" bill, House Bill 16, addresses a problem that doesn't exist, doctors committing infanticide, in lieu of so many real problems. It mandates minimum $100,000 fines for doctors who fail to, in the eyes of the state, appropriately treat babies that survive abortion.

In a brief filed late Friday afternoon with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in defense of a series of Louisiana laws targeting abortion, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton insisted the similar Texas laws are meant to promote the health and safety of women in the state. 

“These pro-life laws are specifically designed to protect women’s health and ensure the medical professionals involved in abortions are licensed and able to provide necessary care,” Paxton said of laws that ban common abortion procedures, mandate medically unnecessary waiting periods and require doctors to provide women with medically inaccurate information before getting an abortion. “The nation saw what happens when abortion clinics are not regulated in the case of Kermit Gosnell, who killed and injured women in his substandard, filthy and unregulated clinic. Louisiana’s pro-life laws are not only constitutional, they protect women’s health and safety. These laws are constitutional, and the writ of mandamus Louisiana requested should be granted.”

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