Our readers talk back.

Article Wrong About FQHCs

Dear Editor,

Your cover story, "The New Texas Family Planning" by Jordan Smith [News], in the Jan. 27 Austin Chronicle, was factually incorrect and misleading in regards to your references to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and the role they play in providing comprehensive health care services to women. Community health centers (CHCs), also known as FQHCs, do not want to be caught up in any political fight between Planned Parenthood and state policymakers. CHCs are the little guy in the health care safety net who provide comprehensive health care services to the most vulnerable in our state.

Your article states that "FQHCs have only been in existence since 1989" and implies that CHCs have never provided family-planning services before 2006. In fact, the CHC program has been around since the 1960s as one of the original War on Poverty programs. Last year, health centers in Texas provided primary care services, including family-planning services, to more than 560,000 patients who were predominately uninsured, working poor. Approximately 67% of our patients are women of child-bearing age and children, 60% are uninsured, and more than 86% live in poverty.

Since the inception of the CHC program, we have always provided family-planning services in addition to other primary health care services, mental health services, and dental care to predominately uninsured and low-income families. In fact, some health centers in Texas were originally family planning programs that became FQHCs in order to meet the needs of their patients. To imply that the provision of a wide range of health care services, in addition to family planning, is a bad thing and to insinuate that only "family planning specialists" at Planned Parenthood clinics are qualified to offer these services is insulting to the medical professionals who work in health centers and out of touch with reality and the needs of women in the state.

Even simple facts regarding FQHCs were misstated. For example, the article states that there are only "40 health centers" in the state and that this small group of providers is taking all the family-planning funding. In reality, there are 52 nonprofit FQHC corporations that operate more than 150 primary-care sites throughout the state. Furthermore, in 2006, 23 CHCs received only 20% of the family-planning funds awarded by the Texas Department of State Health Services compared to 28% of these funds that were awarded to 11 Planned Parenthood organizations. Health centers did not "take" this funding from Planned Parenthood. In fact, they continue to receive a larger proportion of these funds than CHCs even with the Deuell rider in place. It is also important to point out that in distributing these family-planning funds, DSHS engaged contractors in a competitive process and made these awards based on the quality of the proposal and allocated funding based on a need criteria determined by the state, as is required in the Deuell rider. This rider does not guarantee that health centers will automatically get funded. Although health centers did fare better in this process than in past years, nothing was handed to them. They competed like everyone else.

Finally, it should also be stressed that state and federal funding for women's health services, including family-planning services, is inadequate to meet the needs of women in the state. It is important to note that the overall funding for family-planning services was cut by 31.2% for these services. Therefore, many of the cuts experienced by family-planning providers, including both Planned Parenthood clinics and FQHCs, had nothing to do with the appropriations rider, but rather an overall reduction in funding for state family planning services.

The interests of the community and the patients FQHCs serve are at the forefront of our activities. The Chronicle has misrepresented the good work of FQHCs and has missed a great opportunity to point out the need for overall funding increases for comprehensive women's health services. Next time, get your facts straight before you make misleading and disparaging remarks about the good guys.


Jose E. Camacho

Executive director

Texas Association of Community Health Centers Inc.

[Jordan Smith responds: Since I applaud the work of the Federally Qualified Health Centers and, beginning with the article's subhead, report that "slashed budgets" are a major cause of the Texas health care crisis, I have no wish to quibble with Jose Camacho's detailed defense of FQHCs – they perform excellent and necessary work, and I never reported otherwise. Sadly, most of Mr. Camacho's complaints are about an article that I did not write. Rather, he builds an argument for inaccuracy based on what he asserts that I "implied" in the story – even inventing quotations that do not appear there – rather than on the substantive facts and a plain reading of the article. For example, Camacho is technically correct, in stating that some form of the FQHCs have been around since the Sixties. However, the contemporary clinics are the product of the most recent reconfiguration, which began in 1989.

The precise current numbers of clinics vs. "sites" only reinforce the larger argument about the state's cutbacks in health care. I adamantly agree with Camacho that overall federal and state funding for health care, and certainly for women's health care, should be increased. But to write that the Chronicle somehow missed an opportunity to make that point makes me wonder whether Camacho actually read the story with which he so bombastically takes issue.]

Cover Is a Desecration

Dear Editor,

You did a huge disservice to pro-choice Christians everywhere with the photo featured on the front page ["The New Texas Family Planning," News, Jan. 27]. Shame on you for "throwing the baby out with the bath water" and grouping all Christians in the same right-wing boat. A little more restraint might be in order next time! Seriously offensive! Also, what is the difference between the desecration of the Koran by U.S. troops in Iraq and your depiction of the Bible on your cover story?

Tara Fink

Cover Downright Offensive

Dear Editor,

I, my husband, my 3-year-old daughter, and my 6-year-old son just returned from Culver's where our children enjoy burgers and ice cream. I was disgusted as I walked in the restaurant door to immediately see the image of a woman with her bare legs spread open on an examining table, feet in stirrups, and a Family Edition Holy Bible in front of her genital area ["The New Texas Family Planning," News, Jan. 27]. I immediately turned it over in hopes that my children had not seen it. I then told the manager with that kind of welcome, I wouldn't want to continue eating there and I wouldn't be surprised if other families wouldn't either. I will tell you, until tonight I consulted your paper for restaurants, movies, and ideas for outings. However, I just lost every ounce of interest or respect for your paper. I don't care what your politics or beliefs are, your cover photo was downright offensive and disrespectful to women, to families, to Christians, to anyone with small children, to medical professionals, and more. Should businesses continue distributing your paper or advertise in it given its total disregard for their mainstream customers?

Michelle Earle

Pathetic Excuse for Journalism

Dear Editor,

Your cover photo of a spread-eagled woman with a Holy Bible shoved into her crotch is the most vile, disgusting, and pathetic excuse for journalism I have seen in a long time ["The New Texas Family Planning," News, Jan. 27].

It is one thing to express a political opinion in favor of abortion and against government sex education policies. It is quite another to promote the desecration of sacred objects as you did.

Why is it only Christians that may be disparaged and attacked with impunity? You would never desecrate a Koran or Torah in such a way, and this speaks volumes about your bigotry.

You have reached new lows in cheap political stunts and you now, more than ever, do not deserve the title of journalists.

Scott Spinola

Wondering if Advertisers Were Offended

Dear Editor,

Re: This week's cover picture ["The New Texas Family Planning," News, Jan. 27]: OK, I get it. I see the symbolism. I'm sure you knew it would be controversial. Maybe even distasteful? I wonder if it were the Koran, would Islamic people be offended? To see their holy spiritual book in such a "compromising" position might be considered desecration. I wonder if any advertisers or potential advertisers feel that way. Just wondering.

Jeff Farris

Cover Indicative of "Chronicle' Take on Women

Dear Editor,

I wanted to thank you for your story "The New Texas Family Planning" [News, Jan. 27]. People on both sides of the abortion debate seem unable or unwilling to accept that there is more to women's health than having an abortion. From the very poor to the very wealthy, none of us are safe from ideologue doctors, legislators, and of course the Christian fringe.

I'm insured, partnered, and have access to "good health care." All that privilege did not protect me from a local obstetrician who neglected to inform me of potential health hazards or treat me after I miscarried. His advice, "You're fine. To avoid further problems, you need to practice abstinence and get married."

Several weeks later, after a visit to my regular physician, I had to undergo an emergency D&C. The local obstetrician didn't "offer" that particular service, even if my life depended on it. Because of mandatory state regulations, I had to endure a waiting period and was forced to listen to a tape about alternatives to abortion. Finally, my regular doctor had to convince my insurance company that I was not having "elective surgery."

There are so many things that I hate about this episode in my life. The local obstetrician I trusted with my first attempt to have a child couldn't find room in his big, Christian heart for me after he figured out that I'd miscarried and I wasn't married. He didn't bother to tell me I might need further medical attention. I hate that I had to wait to receive a procedure necessary to preserve my health, as if I had a choice whether or not to continue a pregnancy that had sadly already ended. I hate that the insurance company needed to be convinced that my life was worth the years of premiums paid to them.

I tell you all of this because I want you to understand just why I hate the picture you put on the cover this week. If you want to capture just what's so fucking wrong about women's health care, the least you could do is show a woman's face or her whole body – how about her family? I suppose the wide-open beaver shot with the Bible veil is supposed to be moving. I find it indicative of exactly what you think I'm worth.

Genevieve Van Cleve

Cover a Breath of Fresh Air


I just wanted to write in and let you know how freakin' awesome the cover photo is this week ["The New Texas Family Planning," News, Jan. 27]. In a time when we are being systematically silenced more and more, it is a huge breath of fresh air to see that someone still has guts. Good job you guys!


Leslie Pierce

Down With Negative Stereotyping!

Dear Editor,

I just hate it that I am apparently the type of person who can regularly relish all the articles that appear in the Chronicle, but write my first letter to the editor only now – after two words in last week's issue irritated the heck out of me.

Kate Thornberry's review of Nu Age Cafe ["Revelatory Vegan," Food, Jan. 27] praised the restaurant's house-made ketchup as having a taste "so delicious it would convert the snootiest Frenchman into admitting that ketchup is a respectable sauce." Why, for goodness sakes, in a city that prides itself on being open-minded and politically correct, would a writer slam a whole country's citizens with such a derogatory, unsubstantiated, and unnecessary stereotype? I doubt the Chronicle would run a story that referred to the "laziest" person of some race, or the most "fanatic" person of a particular religion, or the most "emotional" woman. Why pick on the French?

I honestly don't believe Kate meant to be offensive. It's just that all of us have learned to be careful in our speech regarding such groups as women, Hispanics, and African-Americans (all of whom are prevalent in Austin), but when a group is not so much in our faces, we tend to lose our sensitivity regarding their existence and feelings.

Maybe I am the one who is a little sensitive because I'm married to a Frenchman (who is not remotely snooty). But I still think all of us can benefit from thinking twice before stereotyping any race, religion, gender, or nation, so let's please do so.

Judy Osborn

Sarcastic Reaction

Dear Editor,

Thank goodness for Belinda Acosta! In her Jan. 20 "TV Eye" column [Screens] I discovered that if not for her eternal vigilance, thousands of dull-witted Austinites like me would never have known what a jaded, sexist, and racist waste of time roller derby was. I could have sworn it's a great entertainment and sporting event. I feel so used. I can't believe that after three years of regular attendance I haven't caught on. It's a relief to know that Ms. Acosta, by never saying she actually went to any roller derby bouts, was "not drawn in" by the same mistakes I've made. I guess it's true that age brings wisdom.

I'm silly. I thought that if women created and ran their own organization responsible for a nationwide revival of roller derby as well as utilizing an old-school banked track which requires much more athleticism and skill, they had really accomplished something. What a dope.

I want to respect my elders, but Ms. Acosta's petty personal attacks on virtually every aspect of the TXRD operation really conjure up some negative stereotypes of women bashing women. And isn't the classic definition of "Austin cool" putting down something other people enjoy?

Who knows, as I get older maybe I'll end up agreeing with Ms. Acosta that it's really easier just to stay home and watch TV.

Bob Jordan

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