GOP Senator Defends Planned Parenthood

The last time Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison took on Rick Perry, things didn't go so well. Hutchison, among the most popular politicians in the state at the time, was the favorite to win the Republican nomination, and instead Perry rode into the general with overwhelming support. Among Hutchison's key problems—besides simply running a bad campaign—a nagging reputation as a moderate, who was at least somewhat pro-choice and who'd voted for the bank bailout. After the disappointing finish, she later announced she wouldn't run for re-election in the Senate. This may be her last year in politics. And evidently, she's decided that it's no time to back down from her political rival.

On MSNBC Thursday morning, the senator openly criticized Perry's decision to defund Planned Parenthood and jeopardize the state's federal funding for the Women's Health Program. "We cannot afford to lose the Medicaid funding for low income women to have health care services," she said. "We cannot."

Hutchison went on to even defend—gasp—Planned Parenthood, pointing to the huge amount of preventative care the group does. “I think Planned Parenthood does mammograms, they do so much of the healthcare, the preventative healthcare, and if they’re doing that, then we need to provide those services, absolutely,” she said.

As I've written before, the state legislature cut two-thirds of funding for family planning in Texas and then chose to disallow Planned Parenthood from being a provider for the Women's Health Program because it is "abortion related." The decision broke federal rules, so the state lost out on $35 million in federal funding for the program. And the state can little afford to lose the money—major budget shorfalls meant Medicaid was already underfunded by $4 billion last session. Meanwhile around 130,000 women rely on the Women's Health Program. Already more than a dozen clinics have shut down. The state still struggles with almost 25 percent of women being uninsured, and with the third highest rate of cervical cancer in the country.

Hutchison's defense flies in the face of conservative criticism. Rather than painting Planned Parenthood with the "abortion" brush, the Republican senator emphasized the obvious role the institution plays in helping keep women healthy. It's an approach that makes sense, since preventative care prevents expensive procedures down the road—including, of course, abortion. 

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