By Perdita Henry
While many of us thought 2020 would be our year, just three months in we realized that perhaps this year had other plans. If life in a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the social woes that faced our country prior to 2020 could be made worse, and women’s health is no exception. As a state, we’ve made some progress over the years to restore funding to the women’s health programs; helping ensure that more women have access to preventive healthcare and contraception. But in a pandemic world, there are concerns we might forget the lessons of the not too distant past, that an investment in Texas women is an investment in all Texans.
So, ahead of the 87th Texas Legislative Session let’s look at four specific opportunities to bolster Texas women’s healthcare programs.
1. Ensuring funding for state administered women’s health programs meet the growing need for preventive healthcare among low-income, uninsured women across Texas.
Healthy Texas Women (HTW), the Family Planning Program (FPP), and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services Program (BCCS) connect Texas women with essential healthcare services and save state dollars. Continued support and funding for the women’s health programs is critical to improving health outcomes for women and families. Safety-net programs like HTW and FPP are especially critical during a global health pandemic when many have lost, or are at risk of losing, employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.
2. Ensuring Texas has a strong qualified provider network with the capacity to serve all women in need of preventive health services.
Texas needs a more cohesive and active provider base to properly address women’s health needs. Where a woman lives should not determine whether she has access to affordable health care. Rural and semi-rural areas still lack access to providers. When they are present there is no guarantee they will provide core family planning and preventive healthcare services or that they have the resources to serve more than a handful of women per year.
3. Ensuring women have access to the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives of their choice, including the most effective forms of contraception – implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) – as well as counseling and medically accurate information on the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives.
It’s hard to plan for a future when you don’t have all the tools necessary to ensure success. Promoting access to all FDA-approved birth control methods and medically accurate counseling for Texas women will help women plan for a future that is right for them.
4. Supporting innovative new healthcare policies that benefit the health of Texas’ women and families.
In Texas, three out of ten women are low income and one in five are uninsured. Updated census data from 2019 shows that Texas remains the state with the highest number of uninsured residents with 5.2 million, or 18.4 percent, of Texans living without insurance. Texas’ family planning programs provide vital, but limited health services. These programs are not a substitute for comprehensive healthcare coverage that provides access to the full range of benefits. Opportunities such as implementing Medicaid coverage for eligible mothers for 12 months postpartum, as recommended by the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee and maximizing federal funding to increase access to health coverage would help our communities
While we value and understand the importance of data and research, we never forget that behind the numbers are people, making life-changing decisions about their futures. It’s whether to put off having that lump in their breast examined because it’s too expensive. It’s skipping an annual well-woman exam because the clinic is too far away. It’s trying to access the contraception that’s best for them and affordable. During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, we plan to do our part to make sure that these challenges continue to shrink, and that women’s health programs continue to improve.
 Hamel, L., Wu, B., Brodie, M. Sim, S., & Marks, E. (2018). Views and Experiences Related to Women’s Health in Texas, Selected findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation/Episcopal Health Foundation 2018 Texas Health Policy Survey
 Katherine Keisler-Starkey and Lisa N. Bunch U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Reports, P60-271, Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2019, U.S. Government Publishing Office, Washington, DC, 2020.