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Let’s Ignore Lena Dunham’s Abortion Gaffe and Focus on a Bigger Problem: Texas

Let’s Ignore Lena Dunham’s Abortion Gaffe and Focus on a Bigger Problem: Texas: Frederick M. Brown / Getty

Frederick M. Brown / Getty

Texas finally made good on its promise to cut more than three million dollars in Medicaid funding Planned Parenthood receives in the state.

A year ago, Texas governor Greg Abbott vowed to defund the organization after undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials allegedly discussing profits made from the sale of donated fetal tissue were released to the public. The videos were later proven to be heavily edited and federal investigations into Planned Parenthood’s practices found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Texas Health and Human Services Inspector General Stuart Bowen sent a final notice to Planned Parenthood stating that they would no longer receive their Medicaid funding. In the accompanying letter, he continued to insist that the undercover videos proved the organization had violated state and federal law.

Abortions provided by Planned Parenthood receive no public funds, but their health care programs are invaluable to the 12,000 low-income women who depend on the organization’s “well-woman” services. They provide flu vaccines, physical exams (which are sometimes required for employment) and screen for breast cancer and HPV, among a long list of other essential services.

Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding will be revoked in 30 days unless they appeal the decision within 15 days by requesting a hearing with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. However, Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said in a statement that the organization would be seeking a “preliminary injunction in an ongoing lawsuit filed in November 2015, following the state’s original threats to take action against Planned Parenthood’s patients.”

Now, it seems as though the battle for Planned Parenthood’s survival in the state will depend on the lawsuit preemptively filed to block the state’s defunding efforts. Planned Parenthood has a good chance of winning the case; other states have already set a precedent by ruling that the organization cannot be legally removed from Medicaid.

Planned Parenthood’s tenuous status as medical provider proves that abortion is still a culturally touchy subject. Recently, Lena Dunham was forced to apologize after she told the podcast Women of the Hour that, “I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.“

In an Instagram post, Dunham wrote that she never meant to “trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy,” and only hoped to “"increase awareness and decrease stigma.”

The relatively benign assertion that Dunham wishes she could better understand the situation so many of her fellow women have found themselves in may have been a little tone deaf, but Dunham has been an outspoken feminist and supporter of reproductive rights since she became massively famous in 2012. It’s pretty obvious that her comment was made in solidarity with women.

As for claims that her comments “trivialize” abortion, perhaps the process of destigmatizing abortion—and in turn protecting organizations and medical providers like Planned Parenthood— starts with talking about the procedure as though it is an often normal, healthy decision women make everyday for the sake of their health, rather than an earth-shattering, life-altering experience that can only be mentioned in hushed tones. A recent study found that abortion does not cause depression in women. In fact, denying a woman access to these services is more likely to have a negative effect on her mental health than the procedure itself.

So, instead of attacking Dunham over her clumsy attempt to relate to the women who’s legally protected rights are currently under threat, let’s stick to the facts: Planned Parenthood’s abortion services do not receive public funding, the organization provides an extensive list of health services essential to the well-being of low income women and denying women access to reproductive health care damages not only their physical health but also their mental health. Texas pro-life politicians will have to reckon with this in the coming battle to save Planned Parenthood.

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