After Defunding Breast Cancer Services, State Hosts Breast Cancer Awareness Event

Event participant doesn't support cutting services

Advocates of Planned Parenthood protest legislative cuts to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program at the Capitol in May.
Advocates of Planned Parenthood protest legislative cuts to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program at the Capitol in May. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

On Wednesday morning, First Lady Cecilia Abbott and The Governor’s Commission for Women and Texas Health and Human Service System plan to host an event raising awareness for breast cancer.

While on its face a noble deed, reproductive health observers will surely, and rightly, point out the troubling irony: During the most recent legislative session, conservative lawmakers, seeking to punish abortion providers, excluded Planned Parenthood from a life-saving Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program (see “Budget Deal Evicts Planned Parenthood From Cancer Program,” May 29).

The program assists some of the state’s most vulnerable women – uninsured patients over 18 years of age who earn income up to 200% of the federal poverty level – by offering clinical breast exams, mammograms, pelvic and HPV exams, biopsies, and Pap tests to prevent and detect cancer in its earliest stages. Last year, Planned Parenthood provided cancer screenings for nearly 3,000 Texas women. That goes a long way in a state that ranks among the country's highest incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer, according to the CDC. Women all over Texas, including breast and cervical cancer survivors who say they were saved by Planned Parenthood services, protested the new rule (see "Defund Planned Parenthood ... Jeopardize Lives," Feb. 13) but the ardently anti-choice Lege failed to listen, pushing thousands of these low-income women away from their trusted – and sometimes only – provider. For instance, in Waco Planned Parenthood is the sole program provider.

Considering this and the Legislature’s systematic defunding of family planning and basic preventative health care over the years, it’s hard not to wonder if those participating in the event actually endorse the cuts or are even aware of them. So, the Chronicle decided to ask.

Planned speaker, Dr. Amy Young, a professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and chair of the Department of Women's Health at UT-Austin's Dell Medical School, says her reason for partaking in the state-sponsored event is to, “support breast cancer screening and awareness and the ability to couple that with diagnostic services.” When asked about her thoughts on cuts to the BCCS program during the Legislative session (which she was aware of but wasn’t necessarily “plugged into” having recently left a job in Louisiana), Young replied that it is “important we not let our political views get in the way of patient access.” When pressed further on whether or not she agreed with the state’s cuts, Young – who holds an impressive résumé championing women’s health in the medical field – said she did not endorse state actions restricting health care and is “not supportive of any decisions that limit women’s access to preventative screening services.” Young then said it was “important to note” she is pro-choice and a former abortion provider; however, she did not wish to offer her thoughts on the state’s abortion restrictions.

While cautious with her answers and never directly criticizing the state, Young, a medical professional, realizes stripping women of access to basic preventative care in the name of politics is never a good idea. She is not alone – more outright, the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists have continually opposed similarly motivated reproductive health restrictions by Texas lawmakers.

Planned Parenthood is supporting a counter rally tomorrow to highlight the hypocrisy of the state. Both events begin at 10am at the Capitol’s South steps.

"When Governor Abbott blocked thousands of Texas women from receiving life-saving cancer screenings from their trusted health care provider he demonstrated once again his callous disregard for the health of Texas women. "Planned Parenthood provided care to more than 3,000 women a year through this program – and in cities like Waco, it was the only provider. Now, when a woman in Waco tries to find a provider, she receives a “no clinics were found” message from the State," said Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes in a statement. "That alone speaks volumes about how much Governor Abbott values the health and lives of Texas women in need."

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