Now that the 84th Texas legislative session has concluded, it occurs to me that most Texans are probably not aware of the women’s preventive-health victories the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition is celebrating.
Controversy surrounding the open carry bills, legislator scuffles, and cannabis oil have made front page news. At the same time, a new line item of $50 million for women’s preventive healthcare in the state budget has stayed under the radar.
Combined with the funding restoration in the 2013 legislative session, the additional funding has the potential to reverse much of the devastating effects of the 2011 budget cuts and subsequent upheavals to women’s health programs. If implemented thoughtfully, this funding will increase the number of women served and help provide access for the more than 1.3 million Texas women in need of contraception and other preventive services.
The Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition is immensely grateful that Texas legislators recognize women’s preventive health care — including check-ups, cancer screenings, and contraception — means healthier babies, healthier mothers and lower costs for taxpayers. As I wrote in April, in order for the full potential of these programs to be realized, more providers must participate and any consolidation must be done with provider input.
A second victory for women’s preventive healthcare is the provider advisory committee required by Rep. Donna Howard’s amendment to Senate Bill 200. As programs are implemented, this workgroup can help ensure program design and procedures that support participation by safety-net providers, allow same-day service, and include the most women in need.
The third women’s preventive-health victory this legislative session is the budget rider that requires increasing access to Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (like implants and IUDs), including the education and training needed. These “LARCs” are a new and highly effective generation of birth control, making it possible to dramatically lower rates of unplanned pregnancy and abortion.
As a mother, a native Texan, and an advocate for prevention, I need Texas to live up to its potential. With these three legislative victories, Texas’ women’s health programs have the potential to improve the lives of more Texas women and their families, resulting in fewer unplanned pregnancies, earlier detection of treatable diseases, and more savings for Texas.