Family Unplanned: Texas Cuts Funding for Women’s Reproductive Health Care

At a time when America is facing the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, when poverty rates in Texas are rising, and the uninsured rate in Texas is the highest in the nation, the Republican dominated Texas legislature cut funding for programs prove to helping working women while increasing funding for religious organizations that do nothing for women’s health care.

Though Texas already has some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on reproductive healthcare, it has recently made drastic cuts to funding for family planning centers while increasing funding to so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs). This funding shift has further decreased women’s access to reproductive healthcare in the state. In Rick Perry’s Texas, women are not trusted to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions.

As the Texas Tribune reported, the Texas Legislature cut $73.6 million from the budgeted amount that the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) budget devoted to family planning programs. The budget for family planning went from $111.5 million in 2010-11 to $37.9 million in 2012-13. According to the DSHS, the funding cuts will cause a reduction of 180,000 clients out of 220,000 that currently receive family planning services. The Legislative Budget Board estimates that the cuts could lead to 20,500 additional births.

Dorothy Reno, Director of Planned Parenthood Clinics in the Texas Capital Region, explains in an interview with Thanh Tan of the Texas Tribune the potential effects that these cuts in family planning will have on Texas women. Women may not have the opportunity to detect breast or cervical cancer until its later stages, for example, and likewise may not be able to detect a sexually transmitted disease (STD) until it affects their fertility or transmits to another person.

When taken in the context of a legislative session that resulted in huge slashes to the Texas budget — especially in areas like health and human services — it is easy to consider the move to cut family planning as part of a general program of austerity. Except for one thing: that while the legislature was cutting the funding that provided low-income Texas women with access to basic reproductive healthcare, it was increasing funding for ideologically-driven Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs).

According to reporting by the Texas Tribune, the legislature increased the budget of the “Alternatives to Abortion” program by $300,000. The $8.3 million budget for the program goes to the “Texas Pregnancy Care Network” (TPCN), a nonprofit organization that contracts with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In turn, these funds go towards CPCs, adoption agencies, social service agencies and maternity homes. While the legislature cut funds for women’s reproductive healthcare, it increased funding for a program that has been a proven public policy failure.

As the Texas Independent reported, the data shows that by any measure the “Alterative to Abortion” program has not met its goals and policy objectives. While the state funded family planning programs that served approximately 220,000 women annually, the Alternatives to Abortion program only serves 18,000. In 2010, the program fell nearly 20% short of its projected client goal, but was nonetheless rewarded a 60% budget increase in 2009. The program also funnels funds to urban areas while ignoring rural areas that have less access to health care.

Not only are CPCs policy failures — they are Constitutional failures as well. Investigative reporting by the Texas Independent concluded that CPCs “routinely blur the line between counseling and religious proselytizing.” This investigation also concluded that TPCNs own documents of prior inspections of their clinics, which largely stated that CPCs failed to label and separate “spiritual materials from its education materials.” The investigation found that volunteers are told to invoke God when clients want an abortion, and were instructed to “tell [the clients] to trust God, he’s got a bigger plan.”

While conflating religion and medical information, CPCs has also been found to provide misleading and false information. A federal report commissioned by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) showed that “federally funded ‘pregnancy resource centers’ are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma.” The report found that 20 of 23 federally funded centers told clients misleading or false information about abortion, including this dubious assertion that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.

The NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Foundation laid out the failures of the “Alternatives to Abortion” program in a report earlier this year. “The ‘Alternatives to Abortion’ program provides no recommended health services, does nothing to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy (and thus the need for abortion), and uses millions of taxpayer dollars to fund a limited network of controversial, unlicensed, and unregulated social service providers.”

At a time when America is facing the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, when poverty rates in Texas are rising, and the uninsured rate in Texas is the highest in the nation, the Republican-dominated Texas legislature has cut funding for programs proven to improve the health working women, and has increased funding for religious organizations that do nothing for women’s health.