The New England Journal of Medicine features a paper this week reporting the results of a comprehensive 3-year evaluation of the legislative cuts to family planning funding in Texas.
Ostensibly, the purpose of the law was to defund Planned Parenthood in an attempt to limit access to abortion, even though federal and state funding cannot be used for abortion care anyway. Instead, these policies are limiting women’s access to a range of preventive reproductive health services and screenings. Disadvantaged women must choose between obtaining contraception and meeting other immediate economic needs. And, as one of our interviewees pointed out, providers are put in the position of “trying to decide, out of the most vulnerable, who is the most, most vulnerable.” Moreover, the impact of these policies is not limited to Planned Parenthood; other organizations have had to close clinics, reduce hours, and lay off dedicated, experienced staff members. We are witnessing the dismantling of a safety net that took decades to build and could not easily be recreated even if funding were restored soon.
In 2011, Texas enacted legislation cutting funding for family planning services by two thirds — from $111 million to $37.9 million for the 2-year period. To implement the legislation and funding cuts, the Texas Department of State Health Services reduced the number of funded family planning organizations from 76 to 41. In response to the significant funding cuts, the study reports 37 Texas clinic closures and 54 clinics with reduced hours. This means more women across the state will be going without access to preventive health care services and more women who will suffer negative health consequences as a result!