[Ed. Note: Readers, please welcome contributor SGB back to HayLadies! SGB immigrated to Houston, Texas when she was eight years old. Since then, she’s realized she’s a Texan at heart. She found her inner feminist at Texas A&M University and now is a local domestic violence attorney. When she’s not kicking ass and taking names in the courtroom, she also serves on the board of the Lilith Fund. She loves good food, good friends and good drinks—best when combined.]
We Texans know that Austin is often light years ahead of the rest of the state in providing for its residents. Austin has a thriving non-profit culture which has provided a number of services to Austinites throughout the years to help fill the gaps in services provided by the local and city government. And local and city government step up to invest in the most vulnerable populations of the Austin city limits.
Specifically, Travis County has recognized the importance of providing basic human rights for Austinites, such as the Medical Assistance Program for Travis County and Austin residents. The MAP helps provide health care for families who fall below 200% of the Federal Poverty Index Guidelines. Specifically this program has provided reproductive health care to many women, including coverage for well woman exams, pap smears, birth control, and abortion for Austinites and Travis County residents. It fills the gap between folks who qualify for federal Medicaid and folks who cannot afford the cost of private health insurance.
Throughout the years, women in Austin and Travis County have relied on this program to obtain a safe and legal abortion for a $25 co-pay. Travis County and Austin recognize that low-income women needed this service to be accessible, and have made it so for a number of years.
This legislative session, Rick Perry, and the Republicans sought to end that avenue of access for Austin women. A bill was passed and signed into law (as a rider to the State Budget) which prevents Travis County MAP from receiving state funds if they continue to fund abortion services. Austin and Travis County have the only health care program that provides health care coverage for abortion in the state. Clearly, the Republicans put a target on the backs of low-income Austin women.
The decision whether or not Travis County will continue to fund abortions for low-income women is now in the hands of the Central Health Board. And it’s not looking good. Though they want to continue to fund abortions for low income women in Travis County, the board is not clear how their operations will be impacted by this recent legislation, as they may not even receive state funds. If the Central Health Board decides to not cover abortion for Austin women, the results will be devastating.
As a volunteer and board member of the Lilith Fund, I can tell you what impact this would have on Austin women. At the Lilith Fund, we get hundreds of calls each week from women all over the state who are seeking some financial assistance to pay for their abortion. The cost of the procedure ranges from $250 to $2000. Every single one of the women who call cannot come up with the amount that they need for the procedure. We provide small grants to many women, and help them make ends meet so that they can obtain a safe, legal abortion and move on with their lives. Last month we gave out over $10000 to help women who could not afford the cost of the procedure.
We don’t have many calls for help that come from Austin, because of MAP coverage of abortion. Many women in Austin reply exclusively on MAP to pay for reproductive health care, including abortion. For many, not even low income women, the thought of coming up with $500 next week is daunting. It is even more difficult for low-income women to come up with the funds needed to get an abortion. If the Central Health Board chooses not to provide coverage for abortions, I know that we’ll have more women calling us for assistance.
I’ll keep you updated on the Central Health Board’s decision and what the impact will be for low-income Travis County women.