LAKEWOOD, COLO.— If you're a woman from Texas—or indeed, any woman—there's a lot to dislike about Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry reminds me of the scene in Thelma and Louise in which Thelma (Geena Davis) says of her n'er-do-well husband, "He kind of prides himself on being infantile." Louise (Susan Sarandon) responds, "He's got a lot to be proud of."
So as we all prepare for the media barrage surrounding Perry's presidential announcement on Saturday, and in tradition of my idol Molly Ivins, I'm going to start a new group, Texas Women Enraged by Rick Perry—TWERP for short. [See a slide show of who's in and out for the GOP in 2012.]
As TWERP's organizer, I feel obliged to point out that on a practical level, Rick Perry has made it pretty lousy for women in Texas, especially for women at the bottom of the economic ladder. He's also made it pretty lousy for anybody who doesn't look like him. As Eileen Smith wrote in the Texas Observer, "In just one session, Republicans managed to screw children, women, gays, immigrants, teachers, the elderly, Hispanics, the unemployed and the uninsured. The only people who got off easy were white guys. Can't imagine why."
The numbers tell the tale. Texas is dead last in the number of non-elderly women without health insurance, and 6th nationally in the percentage of women in poverty, according to the Texas Legislative Study Group. One in five Texas children lack health insurance, the highest rate in the nation. And if that weren't bad enough, Perry tried to opt out of Medicaid, which provides healthcare to the most vulnerable Texas populations, including pregnant women and children.
When it comes to reproductive healthcare, the state budget guts family planning, leaving 284,000 Texas women without birth control or access to basic reproductive healthcare. This will also likely increase the abortion rate, sonograms or no sonograms. And of course there's the standard right wing assault on Planned Parenthood. Women needing prenatal care fare no better.
As reported in the Texas Tribune, "Texas has the worst rate of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester, according to the report commissioned by the Legislative Study Group…And though Texas has the highest percent of its population without health insurance, the state is 49th in per capita spending on Medicaid, and dead last in per capita spending on mental health, according to the report." [See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.]
So if you're a working class Texas woman, Rick Perry doesn't want you to have access to birth control or reproductive healthcare to prevent unintended pregnancy, but once you're pregnant the state mandates a sonogram and a lecture to convince you of the error of your ways. After that sonogram and lecture, if you need prenatal care, you're SOL. And once the baby is born, Texas is 47th in monthly benefit payments under the Women, Infants, & Children program, which provides nutrition assistance.
This is Rick Perry's vision for women in the United States. Limited healthcare, little birth control, low income women and kids left to fend for themselves, a bunch of bureaucrats telling you what to do—and the very real human suffering that goes along with it. TWERP might be an understatement.