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States' Family Planning Cuts End Services for Tens of Thousands of Low-Income Women

States' Family Planning Cuts End Services for Tens of Thousands of Low-Income Women

March 5, 2012 — Drastic cuts to state family planning funding have left tens of thousands of low-income women and teens without access to subsidized contraceptive services, cancer screenings and other preventive care, Reuters reports.

Montana and New Jersey have eliminated their state family planning programs, while New Hampshire has reduced funding by 57%. Five other states have made smaller reductions.

Several states also have enacted legislation to block certain providers from receiving funding for family planning services and preventive care programs for low-income women. In the past year, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin blocked public funding to Planned Parenthood, and several other states are considering similar measures this year (Simon, Reuters, 3/2).

Most recently, Arizona House lawmakers on Friday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would block federal family planning money that flows through the state from going to any organization that offers abortion services. Planned Parenthood, Arizona's largest abortion provider, said the loss of funding would restrict availability of cancer screenings and other services for thousands of low-income women (AP/Your West Valley News, 3/4).

Some of the most drastic effects have been in Texas, where more than half of state-funded family planning clinics closed after lawmakers last fall cut funding by two-thirds. The state's family planning network once provided no- or low-cost birth control, cervical cancer screenings and other services to 220,000 women annually, but it will serve about 40,000 to 60,000 women under the reduced funding levels, state officials said.

By the end of the month, an additional 130,000 low-income women will lose services through Texas' Medicaid Women's Health Program, under a state law that bars participation by Planned Parenthood clinics or other organizations that are affiliated with abortion providers (Reuters, 3/2). The law has put Texas in a stand-off with the federal government, which covers 90% of the program's cost and has warned state officials that they cannot exclude qualified providers from Medicaid (Feibel, KUHF/Kaiser Health News, 3/2).

Many Clinics Forced To Close, Columnist Writes

Although Planned Parenthood's supporters in Texas have rallied around the organization, the state's family planning cuts and Medicaid law have forced several Planned Parenthood clinics to close, and more closures could be on the way, Daily Beast/Newsweek columnist Michelle Goldberg writes. She notes that "[o]ne of the ironies" of the state's efforts is that the laws do nothing to directly target the organization's 14 abortion clinics, which are operate separately from its family planning clinics and do not receive public funding.

Goldberg also points out that, historically, Planned Parenthood "had broad bipartisan backing" and that as recently as 2007 -- when Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) authorized the Women's Health Program -- its non-abortion services "remained largely uncontroversial" (Goldberg, Daily Beast/Newsweek, 3/4).