Planned Parenthood is lying to Texas women about cancer screenings. And it could cost those women their lives.
The Texas Legislature has recently passed, and the governor is expected to sign, a budget proposal which will give priority in funding of the Texas Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings program to health care providers that provide comprehensive health care services. Funding will first go to state, county, and local community health clinics and federally qualified health centers, and then to non-public entities which provide breast and cervical cancer screenings as part of comprehensive primary and preventative health care.
The funds remaining will then be allocated to providers which do not offer comprehensive services, such as Planned Parenthood. This funding structure ensures that funding for the program goes first to providers which provide the widest range of services to low-income Texas women, including comprehensive cancer screenings. In response, Planned Parenthood recently launched the campaign “Save our Screenings,” claiming that Planned Parenthood offers life-saving cancer screenings, and repeated that claim June 1 in their outcry over the new budget.
But Planned Parenthood does not actually provide comprehensive breast cancer screenings. They offer only manual clinical breast exams. These exams are not alone sufficient to detect and diagnose breast cancer. Other types of screening, such as mammograms and MRIs, are much more adequate at detecting breast cancer in at-risk women. The American Cancer Society recommends that women with a high risk of breast cancer get an MRI and a mammogram every year.
Planned Parenthood does not offer these services. Freedom of Information Act requests have revealed that not a single Planned Parenthood in the United States has a mammogram machine. Not one.
Even mammograms are not always enough. In 2011, Texas passed Henda’s Law, which requires physicians to notify women with dense breast tissue that they should seek supplemental screenings beyond mammography due to the difficulty of detecting breast cancer in such women. These supplemental screenings can include breast sonography, 3D screening, MRI, or molecular breast imaging. Seventy-four percent of women under the age of 40 and fifty-seven percent of women in their 50s have dense breast tissue, complicating the detection of breast cancer.
My mother was one of these women. The supplemental screening saved her life and detected her cancer just as it became aggressive. As a result of this law, Texas has had a 23-fold increase in women obtaining MRI breast cancer screenings, which has been shown to be more effective than mammography at detecting breast cancer early. The law has undoubtedly saved lives. But does Planned Parenthood offer these life-saving breast cancer screenings? No.
This blatant misrepresentation of the services Planned Parenthood offers is downright deadly. They are unequivocally misleading women into thinking that they provide comprehensive cancer screenings. Planned Parenthood does not offer mammography or other screenings beyond manual breast exams. The state of Texas has zero interest in funding providers through their Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program that do not provide these vital services. Understandably, Texas wants to prioritize funding to comprehensive health care providers which actually provide these life-saving services.
If Planned Parenthood actually cared about the health of Texas women, it would stop lying to them about the services they offer. It would offer comprehensive breast and cervical cancer screenings. But Planned Parenthood has proven once again that it only cares about its own bottom line at the cost of women’s lives. I stand for Texas women’s access to life-saving breast cancer screenings. Why won’t Planned Parenthood?