News-Journal, August 18, 2012 by John D. Foster
Once again, Texas is in the forefront of the Republican Party’s “war on women” with a proposed gag rule on doctors who provide abortion counseling for the state Women’s Health Program.
The Texas Medical Association and other groups say the rule is so burdensome that doctors won’t want to participate in the program regardless of their position on abortion.
Perhaps that’s the goal of Texas conservatives who want to shut out Planned Parenthood from state funding, even though it serves about 40 percent of the 130,000 low-income women enrolled in family planning services.
If you think the GOP’s “war on women” is a fabrication, please read Mimi Swartz’s cover story in the August issue of Texas Monthly entitled, “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives.”
While focusing on legislative action in Texas, the article’s main thesis can be projected to several other states where Republican-dominated legislatures gained majorities in recent years, mainly in the Midwest. From enacting intrusive sonogram laws to slashing public health budgets, male lawmakers are moving women toward second-class status, often to the chagrin and complicity of female legislators.
Swartz’s main thrust was to examine Texas’ newly enacted sonogram law, which throws another roadblock into the path of women seeking lawful abortions in the state. Many women are required to endure a lengthy probe being inserted into their vaginas. Talk about the ultimate hypocrisy from the party that constantly harps about government intrusion into citizens’ lives.
The author also recounts the lively debate during the 2011 legislative session when the bill was enacted. Rep. Sid Miller, who sponsored the House bill, glossed over the procedure in mundane medical language until he was challenged by Rep. Carol Alvarado.
To bolster her objections to the bill, Alvarado displayed an eight-inch trans-vaginal probe that doctors would use during the procedure. That was a show-stopper. Swartz explained that all the floor chatter stopped and the House listened silently as Alvarado explained the procedure. If male lawmakers were uncomfortable hearing the details, consider the women who actually experience the intrusive and humiliating procedure.
Alvarado continued to grill Miller “with a sustained barrage of icky female anatomy talk” to the point where he could only stammer a response. But Alvarado was fighting the House’s supermajority of Republicans, who passed Miller’s bill 107-42. Several female Republicans voted in favor of the bill, but the overwhelming majority of votes cast in favor were by men.
Miller’s lack of knowledge about the bill’s particulars is a telltale sign he was sponsoring model legislation pushed by conservative think tanks and organizations in as many states as they can muster support by Republicans
The level of anti-women legislation has ramped up since the 2010 election put the GOP in control of several state legislatures.
Swartz also examined bipartisan efforts to fund family planning in Texas as a means to help curb unwanted pregnancies and the cost of government to support these babies and mothers.
With George W. Bush as president, Perry “played nice” with the federal government, which paid 90 percent of poor women health programs in the state. This past year, however, with a Democratic president in office, Perry joined the frenzy to cut off Planned Parenthood. He slashed $30 million from the state budget for this expenditure, promising to come up with state money to cover what the feds would cut from the program because Planned Parenthood funding was excluded.
Swartz also featured Rep. Wayne Christian of Center as a gleeful supporter of the sonogram bill and an early proponent of other restrictive legislation. Christian teamed up with other conservatives to cut the $111.5 million appropriations bill last year that partially funded Planned Parenthood in the state.
Alas, Christian’s efforts in the last legislative session apparently will be his swan song. He represents Shelby, Sabine, Nacogdoches and Jasper counties, but redistricting moved him northward into a newly drawn district that includes Cass, Panola, Harrison and Marion counties for the first time.
Former Marshall Mayor Chris Paddie, a native of Panola County, sized up the new district with the numerical superiority of Harrison County and filed to run in the GOP primary. Paddie used his media savvy and a hefty advertising budget to defeat Christian in the May primary.