Reports: Hundreds of Thousands of Texans Lost Access to Contraception, Cancer Screenings

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Reports: Hundreds of Thousands of Texans Lost Access to Contraception, Cancer Screenings

Andrea Grimes

Two new reports show that hundreds of thousands of Texans lost access to family planning care in the wake of anti-choice lawmakers' crusade against Planned Parenthood in 2011.

Two new reports show that hundreds of thousands of Texans lost access to family planning care in the wake of anti-choice lawmakers’ crusade against Planned Parenthood in 2011.

Enrollment in Texas’ publicly funded family planning programs dropped after lawmakers slashed funds, cancelled a Medicaid women’s health program, and restructured the way the state reimburses reproductive health-care providers for services, causing more than 200,000 Texans to lose access to services after 2011.

One report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, details the impact of drastic cuts to the state’s family planning infrastructure made by Republican lawmakers in 2011. Enrollment in Texas’ state-funded family planning programs plummeted after legislators, hoping to bar Planned Parenthood from providing publicly funded reproductive health care, cut more than $70 million in funds to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) four years ago.

In fiscal year 2012-2013, 54 percent fewer Texans—151,719 people, down from close to 330,000—accessed the contraception and cancer screenings they’d obtained the previous year through the state family planning program.

Roe has collapsed in Texas, and that's just the beginning.

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The findings, from researchers at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), along with colleagues from Ibis Reproductive Health and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, are in line with predictions from 2011, when Texas DSHS estimated that around 180,000 Texans would lose access to birth control and cancer screenings as a result of the GOP-led cuts.

Researchers wrote that their findings—the result of a survey of Texas family planning providers and in-depth interviews with some of those providers—”[highlight] how the patchwork of programs that have supported low-income women’s access to reproductive health services can come apart at the seams when specialized family planning providers are marginalized or systematically excluded from public programs.”

Texas lawmakers not only reduced family planning funds in 2011, but also restructured the funding allocation to providers, prioritizing public agencies and clinics that did not specialize in family planning care and placing specialized reproductive health-care providers, like Planned Parenthood, last in line to receive state money.

The researchers called the family planning cuts and restructuring in Texas “politically motivated,” and found that 82 of the state’s family planning providers closed their doors between 2011 and 2013. Another 49 providers reduced their hours.

After the cuts, fewer Texans had access to highly effective, long-acting reversible contraceptive methods like implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs), and providers told researchers that they suspected their former clients “simply were not seeking reproductive health care” after encountering shuttered facilities and long waits for appointments at those that were able to remain open.

Researchers also found that “organizations serving Latino communities” reported that unauthorized Texans who had once been served by state-funded providers were “falling through the cracks.”

The TxPEP report did not contain data concerning the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP), a re-tooled state-funded program that was launched in 2013 after lawmakers banned Planned Parenthood from the original Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

But Texas DSHS published its own numbers from the TWHP online this week, showing a 9.1 percent decline in clients enrolled statewide after the department moved from a federally funded program to a state-funded program in 2013.

West Texas saw the largest drop in TWHP clients—40.6 percent of clients lost services there—while the Upper Rio Grande Valley region saw an 18.4 percent increase in clients served. DSHS reported a 25.7 percent reduction in utilization of the program in 2013, a loss of nearly 30,000 clients served during the Medicaid program’s final year of funding in 2012.

Texas lawmakers have taken up their fight against Planned Parenthood again this year, hoping to bar Planned Parenthood from providing breast and cervical cancer screenings to Texans through another state-funded health-care program.