Cuts to Planned Parenthood spur protest

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Memorial High School senior Nicole Vargas stood a head shorter than most of the crowd at Tuesday’s Planned Parenthood demonstration at the Capitol. Her opposition to proposed state cuts for the program, however, was just as big as that of every protester in the sea of pink shirts. Vargas, a San Antonio resident, said her mother had her first child at 15 years old and received treatment from Planned Parenthood. Memorial didn’t offer sex education courses, so Vargas attended Planned Parenthood’s classes as a sophomore. The course introduced girls to the concept of sexually transmitted infections and stressed that actions had consequences, she said. “Teen pregnancy is a big issue in my community because a lot of girls believe being pregnant is common,” Vargas said. Vargas joined Planned Parenthood advocates from all across Texas to protest the proposed state cuts to Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s programs because of the state’s estimated $15 billion to $27 billion budget deficit. Currently, Planned Parenthood receives about one-third of its funding from the state’s Women’s Health Program, established in 2005 to provide preventative care to low-income women. The organization offers health services in the form of birth control, annual woman health exams, STI testing and sex education for just less than 300,000 people in Texas every year, said Alan Kramer, board member of the Planned Parenthood Trust of South and Central Texas. The demonstration followed a recent decision in February by the U.S. House of Representatives to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood and all organizations that provide abortion services. However, no government funding can help provide abortions, so all funding for Planned Parenthood’s abortion services come from private sources, according to the organization. “There’s nobody in America who does more to prevent the need for abortion than Planned Parenthood,” said Holly Morgan, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of North Texas. “If they really hate abortion they should be helping us provide more birth control, family planning and care, sex education and preventative health care.” One of the supporters of the proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood is Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, who questioned whether funding Planned Parenthood was constitutional. In a statement released last year, Deuell, a licensed family physician, said he wanted to discuss how best to use state money to expand women’s access to health care without funneling money to organizations that perform abortions and proposed an amendment to a state bill that would deny funds to programs such as Planned Parenthood. Victoria Heckenlaible, president of University Life Advocates, said the issue at hand was difficult but one she felt would pass in the Legislature because of the success of the sonogram bill, which requires women to see a picture of the fetus and listen to its heartbeat before an abortion. The bill passed in the House on a 103-42 vote last week. “I understand Planned Parenthood does offer many services to women in education and other health benefits,” said Heckenlaible, a rhetoric and writing junior. “But I feel if you’re going to receive that much funding from the state you need to not be involved in such controversial issues as abortions.” Vargas planned to lobby representatives after the rally. “I have learned the choices I make will affect me in the future,” Vargas said. “And I am here speaking for the women in my community who are too afraid to speak for themselves.”