Likely Increase in Births Has Some Texas Lawmakers Revisiting Cuts

December 12, 2012 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, United States, News

Likely Increase in Births Has Some Lawmakers Revisiting Cuts
Published: December 7, 2012


When state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.

Now they are facing the policy implications – and, in some cases, reconsidering.

The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million – $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone – and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.

Ahead of the next legislative session, during which lawmakers will grapple with an existing Medicaid financing shortfall, a bipartisan coalition is considering ways to restore some or all of those family planning dollars, as a cost-saving initiative if nothing else.

“I know some of my colleagues felt like in retrospect they did not fully grasp the implications of what was done last session,” said Representative Donna Howard, Democrat of Austin, who said she had been discussing ways to restore financing with several other lawmakers in both parties.

She added, “I think there is some effort they’ll be willing to make to restore whatever we can.”

Any such agreement would almost certainly exclude Planned Parenthood from future financing.

Though the Planned Parenthood clinics that used to provide state-subsidized care never performed abortions, Republican lawmakers are enforcing rules in the state’s family planning programs that ban providers “affiliated” with clinics that perform abortions. (By this logic, because some Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortions, none of them can receive state money.)

Senator Bob Deuell, Republican of Greenville, has been an advocate for getting Planned Parenthood off taxpayer financing, but he said last session’s family planning cuts had gone too far. He said he had the support of some of Texas’ leading anti-abortion groups to seek more money for birth control and reproductive health care in 2013 – as stand-alone services and as part of what he and Texas health officials hope will be a $70 million expansion of state-subsidized primary care.

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