RMC Responds: Texas Women Feel the Real Costs of Family Planning CutsPosted: May 17, 2013
This week, in response to a Facebook post about the repercussions of Texas’ drastic cuts to family planning funds in 2011, one commenter wrote:
“I respectfully disagree that it is the governments responsibility to provide family planning. Definitely not to fund private organizations. It is the duty of the family to educate and council girls on the consequences of sexual activities – good and not so good.”
In 2011, anti-choice Texas Lawmakers reduced their state budget for the Women’s Health Program (WHP) by nearly two-thirds, from $111 million to $37.9 million yearly, and they were not shy about their political purposes:to starve all funding for Planned Parenthood. This drastic action caused them to also lose their allotted federal funding, another $30 million yearly. Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country, with 28.8 percent of all residents without insurance, including one quarter of all Texas women. Through public-private partnerships between state and federal governments and private health centers, the WHP had provided both basic and reproductive health care for the most vulnerable women and families in the state since 1999. Through federal block grants, the Texas WHP received approx $9 for every $1 the state spent on preventive care. By utilizing this public-private partnership, Texas women were able to receive the highest quality of care for the lowest possible cost to the state government. Without this funding model, these low-income and uninsured patients would be pushed to emergency rooms and to private physicians at full cost to the state. Planned Parenthood is the most widely accessible and proven quality women’s health care service in the country. Prior to the 2011 cuts, Planned Parenthood clinics provided healthcare services to nearly half of the over 100,000 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Program. In many parts of Texas, Planned Parenthood served as much as 80 percent of the population.
Having rejected federal Medicaid funds, Texas must now try and come up with around $200 million dollars over the next five years, on top of the cuts they made to the state budget. This is already having detrimental effects on women and the state. In the past two years 56 of Texas’ 117 family planning clinics have closed, including 51 Planned Parenthood clinics– none of which provided abortions. These clinic closings have left nearly 50,000 Texas women without access to health care. While officials are claiming the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is capable of making up the difference through existing state-approved health centers, Texas women are largely finding themselves unable to find providers that accept Medicaid. And many of those that do participate in the WHP are not currently accepting new clients. The effects on women and families to date is devastating. From 2010 to 2012 the number of unintended pregnancies has increased by over 30,000, even while rates drop nationwide. During this same time the number of new STI transmissions has also increased significantly.
Unintended pregnancies have long-term negative effects for individuals and the government. The additional cost to taxpayers is estimated to be as much as $273 million– approx. $110 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone, most of this due to the cost of caring for infants under Medicaid. Low-income women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to remain dependent on government programs for extended periods of time, further increasing the cost to taxpayers. The sharp rise in unintended pregnancies will also dramatically increase the number of abortions statewide.
Finding the most cost-effective means to provide quality care and decrease the number of unintended pregnancies is a goal that both sides of the ‘choice’ debate can support. Increasing access to contraception, and providing comprehensive sex-education, that stresses abstinence, but includes factual information about prevention, is a smart place to start. While some may believe it is the purview of the family to educate their children about sex, Texas has been using federal dollars to fund proven ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage education for decades. In fact, an analysis of abstinence only education in Texas revealed that the percentage of students who reported having engaged in sexual intercourse increased for nearly all ages. Abstinence plus comprehensive sex education programs promote healthy families, have broad support from the American public, and do not sacrifice a commitment to traditional values. And studies have shown that for every $1 million spent on such programs would save $2.5 million of tax-payers money. Increasing access to preventive care and choosing abstinence plus comprehensive sex-ed over abstinence-only is both the right thing to do for our families and our pocketbooks.