Penny Pinching Texas Legislators Slam Family Planning


In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut the two-year budget for funding family planning from $111 million to $38 million. This was part of Texas’ plan to appease the right wing anti-abortion faction of the Republican Party, and is part of an overall effort to destroy Planned Parenthood, even though none of the government funding, by law, is used to pay for abortion services.

Since Planned Parenthood was the main provider of low-income women’s healthcare in Texas, as it is in several other states, removing funding for Planned Parenthood reduced the availability of breast and cervical cancer screening as well as the availability of effective birth control. It is possible that the efforts to block Planned Parenthood may jeopardize the entire Title X program at the Federal level.

Title X dates from 1970, and provides primary care to low income women. According to Planned Parenthood, “In 2015 alone, health centers provided nearly 800,000 Pap tests; nearly 6 million STI (sexually transmitted infections) tests; and 1 million women with breast exams through Title X.” By providing effective birth control, Title X reduces unwanted pregnancies, which in turn reduces the number of abortions and lowers the costs of health care. Planned Parenthood claims that for every $1 spent on Title X programs, the government saves $7.09 in long term costs.

In March 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report, “Effect of Removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program.” Texas had implemented its Women’s Health Program in 2007 with 90% of the funding coming from the Federal government. In 2011, the Texas Legislature instructed the program to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed Texas that because of the “any willing provider” provision in the law, the Texas program would no longer be eligible for federal funding.

Texas in response formed the Texas Women’s Health Program, providing the same services as the earlier program with only state funding and without Planned Parenthood participation. However, 15 months earlier, Texas had cut funding for for specific family planning programs, including, but not limited, to Planned Parenthood. The money was redistributed to community health centers and county health departments, but note that Texas is one of the states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid coverage in Texas was cut off for parents earning above 19% of the federal poverty level — or $3,760 for a family of three. Adults without children are ineligible for Medicaid. The only state that comes in below Texas is Alabama, where Medicaid eligibility cuts off at 18% of the poverty level for a family of three.

The results of the Texas study were predictable. Closing family planning centers resulted in fewer women receiving reliable birth control and an increase in the number of pregnancies. At the same time, representatives of the Texas Policy Center wrote in the Washington Post, “These findings represent a stark rebuttal to the repeated assurances made by state leaders then — and Republicans in Congress now — that the gap left by Planned Parenthood would be easily filled by community health centers or women switching their care to private physicians. In interviews with other health-care providers that have not been working in family planning, we learned that many lack the training to provide IUDs and implants.”

Texas had an average monthly enrollment of about 79,000 in family planning centers, down from 126,000 before it cut Planned Parenthood and other specialized centers. According to the New York Times, Texas had the nation’s highest birthrate, with more than 400,000 births in 2015, more than half of which were paid for by Medicaid. In 2015, Texas ranked 46th in terms of teen birthrate, tied with New Mexico at 34.6 birth per 1,000 girls age 15-19. Massachusetts had the lowest rate at 9.4 birth per 1,000 girls, while Arkansas had the worst rate at 38 births. The Texas survey also found that one-third of the teen pregnancies were unplanned and unwanted.

The Republican Party, both nationally and state by state, has attacked Planned Parenthood and is willing to deprive poor women and young girls from basic health care. The Texas study focused on availability of reliable birth control and births of unwanted children, but it also meant viral infections that might have been prevented, bacterial infections that might have been treated, cancers that might have been diagnosed at an earlier stage. But please – don’t take back the money.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living in New York. Email

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2017

Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2017 The Progressive Populist

PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652