When the electronics company that 50-year-old Tena Price operated with her husband lost a major contract in 2007, the Waco, Texas, couple lost their health insurance, and she went several years without a Pap smear or a mammogram. Birth control was less of a concern as she got older, but she took the pill to help with her heavy, painful periods, and to make the supply last, she tried alternating one month on, one month off. “I found out that—I don’t know if it’s because I’m older—but that doesn’t work very well for your body at all,” she says. “And so I called Planned Parenthood and said I need help.”
Since contacting Planned Parenthood last year, she has received an annual exam, a year’s worth of birth-control pills, and a voucher for a free mammogram at a radiology clinic. “They did cholesterol testing—heart disease runs in my family,” she says. “And menopause is coming, so hopefully I will get some guidance through that. Without them, at this point, I would have none of that.”
But in Texas, the state with the highest rate of uninsured women in the country, such care is getting a lot harder to access. Last year, in a move targeting Planned Parenthood, the Texas legislature slashed family-planning funding by two thirds, from $111.5 million to $37.9 million. Now, the state is on the verge of eliminating its Women’s Health Program, which provides reproductive-health care for more than 130,000 poor women who don’t meet Texas’s narrow Medicaid eligibility requirements. It’s mostly paid for by the federal government, which contributes $9 for every $1 given by the state. But because federal law won’t let Texas bar Planned Parenthood (or any other qualified provider) from the program, the state is poised to discontinue it, refusing $35 million from Washington.
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