By Perdita Henry
It’s officially summer, but the spirit of spring rejuvenation is still in the air. This month, we saw Coalition member, the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas reveal their new brand and name to the world.
“Every Body Texas is a non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas. We work to ensure that every person in Texas can access safe, unbiased, high-quality sexual and reproductive healthcare, by funding and training healthcare providers in a way that increases access for clients.”
As the statewide Title X administrator, Every Body Texas works hard to ensure the clinics they serve have the support they need, and that clients have the access to the reproductive healthcare they need. “We have a new look and new name, but one thing remains the same: Everything we do is to pursue a more equitable and accessible culture of health. For everybody.”
You all recently underwent a name change and rebranding effort! What inspired these changes and what do you hope it will accomplish?
Our organization, and the Title X Project that we support, has experienced a lot of change since 2016. It was clear that we needed to have intentional and strategic conversations about our mission, vision, values, and work. In late 2018, our board and leadership agreed this should be a top priority for the coming year. We adopted our first strategic plan in February 2020—after a year-long process of engaging our board, staff, and key stakeholders—that includes a bold vision for our organization and for sexual and reproductive healthcare services in Texas. We also are building a new website that will better support our expanding work.
We knew our updated mission and vision called for a name that both reflected our values and the broader, more inclusive environment we are working to support. Every Body Texas really speaks to the fact that all people—regardless of gender, age, income, or life circumstances—need to be able to access safe, unbiased, high-quality sexual and reproductive healthcare services. That’s not yet a reality in Texas, and we still have lots of work to do.
What is Title X and why is it important to women’s health in the state?
Title X is the only federal program solely dedicated to providing family planning services. It supports wellness exams, contraception services, counseling and education, screening for certain kinds of cancers, and testing and treatment for STIs. Title X also ensures confidentiality for all clients –including teens who want to access care without parental involvement. For many Title X clients, a visit to one of our clinics is the only medical care they may receive. Because Texas leads the nation in the rate of uninsured people, and nearly two million Texas women need publicly funded family planning care, Title X services are critically important in our state.
What are some of the major health issues/challenges women using your clinics are facing?
Every Body Texas supports a network of more than 35 healthcare agencies and community-based organizations that operate over 160 Title X sites across the state. The average Title X client in Texas is a woman under 30, living under the federal poverty line (around $26,000 a year for a family of four), and lacking health insurance.
Clients seeking services at Title X clinics report many of the same barriers to accessing healthcare as others who experience poverty in our state. These challenges include a lack of access to reliable transportation, time off work, and childcare. So, Title X providers do their best to remove any remaining barriers once clients walk through the door. This also means offering services before and after school hours, and on weekends, to ensure that teens can access confidential services; like Sexually Transmitted Infection screenings and treatments, and contraception, at their local Title X clinic (because state law requires parental consent for teens to receive sexual and reproductive healthcare in most other settings). As we navigate a global pandemic, there’s a greater need for these services than ever before, and Title X providers are adapting services to best meet the needs of their clients and communities.
The Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas (WHFPT) – now Every Body Texas – was founded in 1977. How have the challenges to ensure women across the state have access to healthcare changed over the years and how has the organization adapted?
We’ve changed a lot as an organization over the last four decades. Until 2013, when we became the statewide Title X administrator, we operated as an association and primarily advocated for our membership of family planning and women’s healthcare providers. When we competed for, and won, the statewide administration of the Title X grant, the organization completely shifted its focus to supporting the Title X project. At the time, the reproductive healthcare safety net was in a state of crisis after a series of funding and policy decisions that resulted in 82 family planning clinics (one out of every four in the state) closing or reducing hours, and subsequently restricting access to critical sexual and reproductive healthcare services across the state. The safety net also experienced a significant loss of institutional knowledge—and trust in funders.
Over the last seven years, we have worked hard to leverage our funding and technical expertise to help rebuild the reproductive healthcare safety net. Title X funding, as administered by our organization, assisted providers in reestablishing access points and in increasing the number of clients served. Our organization was able to restore Title X funding to approximately half of the 23 organizations that lost funding in 2011, but other organizations no longer existed or had stopped providing family planning services. If our organization had not been granted the statewide administration of the Title X grant in 2013, the devastating impacts to the safety net would have been even greater.
Our commitment to Title X providers will remain central to our work, even as we look to other ways to increase access to quality sexual and reproductive healthcare across the state in the future.
We’re also excited to return to our organization’s roots in policy and advocacy. We look forward to taking a more active role in the upcoming legislative session to ensure continued support for state-funded women’s health programs—especially in the face of looming budget cuts.
Why is it important for your organization to be a TWHC member?
We are a member of the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition, and serve on the Steering Committee, because our work and the work of Title X providers align with the Coalition’s objectives of increasing funding for women’s preventive healthcare, ensuring Texas has a strong provider network, and supporting innovative healthcare policies. Title X funds alone cannot support the critical infrastructure needed to deliver sexual and reproductive healthcare services to people in need, so the state’s funding and policy landscape directly impacts our organization’s Title X project.
Although Every Body Texas does not receive state funding, the Title X providers we support depend on funds appropriated by the Texas Legislature and administered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission – including Texas Medicaid, Healthy Texas Women (HTW), and the Family Planning Program (FPP). Likewise, our providers benefit from state-level policies that promote increased access to effective, evidence-based care. By lending our support and expertise, we can help build provider-informed strategies and have greater impact through the combined efforts of multiple organizations working in coordination.
What does an ideal future for women’s health look like according to Every Body Texas?
At Every Body Texas we’re building a future where all people – including, but not just, women – can: access the safe, unbiased, high-quality sexual and reproductive healthcare services they want and need; choose if, when, and how to have a child on their own terms and on a timeline that is best for them; and make the best decisions for themselves and their circumstances with complete, factual information—free of coercion and bias.
We also want to see policymakers and funders become more vocal about their support for sexual and reproductive healthcare, and to show their support by both increasing funding for providers and promoting policies that increase access.