Reproductive Rights in Texas
If you require an abortion in Texas, you may need to go on a road trip to receive professional care. Following the passage of Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) in 2013, the number of abortion clinics in Texas reduced from 41 to 22. This left 96% of counties without an abortion clinic. An earlier blow to Texas abortion-providers, namely Planned Parenthood, occurred in 2011 when family-planning grants were cut by 66% across the state. These cuts not only caused centers to shut down, they also contributed to a rising birth rate. Additionally, clinics that remained open charged for services that were previously offered for free.
“There’s a misconception that Planned Parenthood is where pregnant women go when they’re in dire straits,” says Blanca Morales, “sometimes it is, but not all the time.” According to Planned Parenthood’s 2016-2017 Annual Report, abortion services made up just 3% of the total services provided that year. Planned Parenthood also provides STI testing & treatment, contraception, and cancer screenings. Despite budgetary setbacks, Planned Parenthood South Texas is one of the only facilities in Texas that provides professional abortion services.
Planned Parenthood South Texas: From 1939 to Present
Originally known as the Maternal Health Center, Planned Parenthood South Texas was founded in 1939 by a group of San Antonio women. The center provided reliable birth control such as diaphragms throughout the 1940s, prior to the passage of Roe v. Wade. More recently, Planned Parenthood South Texas has undergone a period of growth. The budget has allowed for an expansion of promotional events, many of which raise awareness for sexual health initiatives. This effort is led by Blanca Morales, the Marketing and Program Manager at Planned Parenthood South Texas. Morales works to drive patient volume by utilizing unique marketing tactics that increase the visibility of Planned Parenthood in Texas. “A lot of people don’t even realize that we’re still here,” says Morales, “they see Planned Parenthood in the news and they don’t know if we’re still open, they don’t know if we can provide needed services, so we’ve made efforts to let them know otherwise!”
Getting The Word Out With Custom Condoms
Morales and her team attend pride events, festivals, health fairs, and fundraisers to distribute information that helps prevent transmission of STIs. With a heavy emphasis on condom distribution, Morales saw an untapped marketing opportunity. “We used to distribute regular Lifestyles,” says Morales, “but I saw it as a missed opportunity because at the end of the day nobody is going to remember where they got them from, who they got them from, and why they got them.” After meeting with other marketing professionals from Planned Parenthood affiliates, Morales heard about Say It With A Condom. “They gave me samples of things they’ve ordered with you guys, and I thought it was perfect and exactly what we needed,” says Morales, “I need to be able to distribute condoms at whatever event we’re at and I need people to know that they came from Planned Parenthood. I need people to know that they can call us, schedule an appointment, and go to our website.”
The condoms, emblazoned with the witty phrase “We’re Your Friends With Benefits,” were inspired by condoms created by Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. Morales recently distributed the condoms at the Kerrville Folk Festival, “the festival organizers called us at random and asked if we could hand out free condoms. I was able to give them some, including the ‘We’re Your Friends With Benefits’ condom.” Morales notes that Bexar County has a very high rate of HIV infections, and because festival season often lends itself to a more frequent rate of unprotected sex, access to condoms is essential. With the branded Planned Parenthood condoms, attendees will know where to go if they need testing. Morales believes that “by taking free condoms, people know they can call us, get STD and HIV testing, start a PrEP prescription, and even undergo hormone therapy. It’s all about getting our name out there!”
Title X: An Uphill Battle
This outreach is made more essential by a proposed gag rule on Title X, which provides affordable care to people with low-incomes. Planned Parenthood serves 41% of all Title X patients, which includes services such as wellness exams, cancer screenings, birth control, and testing. However, a proposal from the Trump administration would prevent healthcare providers from referring their patients for abortion services. The proposal would also allow providers to withhold information regarding one’s healthcare options and impose rules “designed to make it impossible for patients to get birth control or preventative care.” This ruling could remove access to care for millions of people, leaving centers to rely on internal marketing strategies and grassroots organizing to spread awareness of the potentially life-saving services offered by Planned Parenthood.
To take action, write to the Health & Human Services Director Alex Azar by following this link