Women’s Healthcare Spotlight

Malvika Pradhan, News editor

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is a national organization that originated as a single birth control clinic in the Brooklyn borough of New York City in 1916. Today, there are now about 600 locations across the United States, including 39 in Austin, according to The Dallas Morning News. Planned Parenthoods across the country now work to accomplish a variety of tasks revolving around reproductive rights, according to the spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Sarah Wheat. 

“Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas operates three health centers in Austin,”  Wheat said, “They provide birth control, STI testing and treatment, HIV tests, and PrEP and PEP to prevent HIV transmission, breast and cervical cancer screenings, treatment for urinary tract and other infections, preventive healthcare exams and as permissible under state law, abortions are provided at our South Austin health center, Planned Parenthood also provides professional sex education programs and advocates on behalf of our patients.”

Planned Parenthood offers all health education services free of charge, and bases the cost of healthcare services on a patient’s income. Any person is eligible for these services.

“Patients can call 1-800-230-PLAN or visit ppgreatertx.org to make an appointment,” Wheat said. “All patients are welcome regardless of income, insurance or documentation status, where you live or who you love.”

According to Wheat, one of the most pressing healthcare issues facing women today is access to abortions. This issue especially affects women of color and low-income women.

“Access to legal abortion is significantly limited in Texas and could be banned in the months ahead,” Wheat said. “Bans on abortion disproportionately impact low-income women, women of color, and women who can’t take time off work, access childcare, transportation, and the resources needed if they are forced to leave the state to access an abortion in a healthcare setting.”

According to Texas is Ready, a coalition that focuses on teaching young people sexual education, Texas is only one of five states in the United States that requires parents to opt their children into sexual education, and doesn’t require that schools teach it to students. Wheat said this lack of education is an important issue facing young people in Texas today. 

“Texas schools aren’t required to teach about sex education, and patients come to our health center who don’t know how their menstrual cycle works, how to prevent an unintended pregnancy or STI, the importance of consent, the importance of routine testing and screenings, and this information is essential for making informed decisions to protect one’s health,” Wheat said.

Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition

The Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition (TWHC) is an advocacy group that focuses on providing preventive healthcare, or healthcare services that prevent unplanned pregnancies, to women. The group works by monitoring and responding to Texas’ Women’s Health Programs, Healthy Texas Women (HTW) and the Family Planning Program (FPP). Leah Joiner is the advocacy and policy associate for TWHC, and said that the kind of work that TWHC provides is necessary in the Texas community. 

“Based on 2019 Census data, 5.2 million, or 18.4%, of Texans are uninsured, three out of ten women have low incomes, and one in five lack insurance coverage,” Joiner said. “HTW and FPP provide limited but important preventive services that: reduce unintended pregnancies and allow for healthy birth spacing, reduce maternal and infant complication risks, and result in better maternal and infant health outcomes.”

Joiner believes the most pressing healthcare issue facing women today is receiving access to healthcare. Additionally, she thinks that women are one of the most overlooked groups in terms of being able to access health services.

“Because Texas has not expanded Medicaid, or agreed upon a Texas-specific solution for broad healthcare coverage, many still do not have an affordable option for insurance,” Joiner said. “For women who are over the age of 19, able-bodied, not receiving coverage through an employer or the marketplace, and not pregnant, there is no other option for accessing comprehensive healthcare.”

Specifically, TWHC hosts meetings to raise community awareness, which are open to the public. People can visit the TWHC website to read advocacy materials, legislative reports, and see their newsletters.

“TWHC doesn’t offer membership to individuals, but our coalition meetings are open to the public, and anyone is able to sign up for our e-newsletters through our website, texaswhc.org,” Joiner said. “The e-newsletters are the best way to stay updated on educational or advocacy opportunities.”

Joiner said that even young people in high school are affected by healthcare disparities. She said that the healthcare system in general is complicated, and even more so for young people. 

“Navigating the healthcare system can be an overwhelming task for anyone, and for young Texans who do not have access to a consistent form of healthcare coverage, it can be even more difficult,” Joiner said. “Access to preventive health and family planning services can help young Texans plan their futures by allowing them to focus on their education or building their careers.” 


Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) is a club geared towards giving experience to students who want to work in medical or health-related fields. Students can choose from a wide variety of topics to compete in, from forensic science to dental terminology. Texas has the largest number of HOSA members in the country. Junior Geetika Polavarapu is one of the club’s four captains. Polavarapu said that she thinks it is beneficial that more women are occupying healthcare-related professions.

“I’ve heard that over 50% of the healthcare professions are currently held by women,” Polavarapu said. “Despite the lack of support women get in STEM fields, I find it encouraging to see so many entering the medical field.”

However, Polavarapu still believes that women have to work harder than their male counterparts in healthcare professions. She said that she believes women still have less access to healthcare professions than males. 

“Even though the number of women in healthcare professions is increasing, I still have heard that women feel like they have to continuously prove themselves in the workplace in comparison to their male coworkers,” Polavarapu said. “As patients, women have stated they feel as though their doctors are undermining their symptoms.”

Additionally, Polavarapu thinks that women patients can be dismissed in healthcare settings. She said some doctors believe that women have lower pain tolerance than men, and therefore don’t always treat their symptoms as real.

“I do think that many of those active in the medical field have a subconscious idea that women are more sensitive to pain and therefore ‘over-exaggerate’ their symptoms,” Polavarapu said. “This subconscious idea is harmful and hinders patient care.”

Another issue Polavarapu feels women face, especially young women, is body image. According to the Polaris Teen Center, 69% of females between ages ten to eighteen say that photos of celebrities and models in the media have motivated their “ideal” body shape. 

“I know many who have suffered from eating disorders due to external pressure,” Polavarapu said. “Eating disorders have long-lasting impacts that are very hard to recover from later on in life.”

Polavarapu likes discussing these issues but she looks forward to making a career in the healthcare field in the future and getting more hands-on experience. Polavarapu says that her decision to join HOSA in freshman year is one she doesn’t regret. 

“I was initially curious about medicine in ninth grade and felt like freshman year would be a great time to try out a new interest,” Polavarapu said. “I was excited for the competitive events, but after joining, the service projects have also been extremely interesting and fun to engage in.”