May 12, 2015 — More than 50% of Texas women encountered at least one barrier while trying to access reproductive health services in the years following the state's overhaul of its family planning services program, according to a recent report from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, the Kaiser Health News/Texas Tribune reports (Ura, Kaiser Health News/Texas Tribune, 5/12).
In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut the state's family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women's health clinics affiliated with abortion providers. As a result of the cuts, 76 of Texas' family planning clinics closed or stopped providing family planning services, according to a survey by University of Texas-Austin researchers.
To mitigate the effect of the 2011 cuts, Texas legislators during the 2013 session increased women's health funds to $214 million for the 2014-2015 state budget, up from $109 million in the previous budget. The funding was dedicated to expanding primary care, operating the Texas Women's Health Program and replacing the family planning grants that the federal government awarded to another organization to distribute (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/21/14).
For the report, researchers from TxPEP reviewed women's access to reproductive health services -- including cervical cancer screenings, contraceptives and family planning -- beginning in 2011, the year the cuts took place. Researchers surveyed 779 Texas women between the ages of 18 and 49.
The report found that 55% of the respondents encountered barriers to access. Specifically, 18% of respondents experienced one barrier to access and 37% experienced at least two barriers to access.
The report also identified the types of barriers women encountered between 2011 and 2014. Specifically, 38% of women said they faced financial difficulties accessing such care, 23% said they could not take time away from school or work, 20% reported insurance issues and 15% said there were no nearby services. Other barriers included discomfort with health care providers, a lack of childcare, no transportation options, language barriers or a lack of support from partners or family.
Overall, the report found that young women with low incomes and low education levels, especially Hispanic women who spoke Spanish and were born in Mexico, experienced the most barriers to accessing reproductive health services (Kaiser Health News/Texas Tribune, 5/12).
Abortion-Rights Groups Grow in Texas Amid Increased Abortion Restrictions
In related news, a growing coalition of volunteer-led abortion-rights groups in Texas are working to protect abortion access in the state amid increasing restrictions on the procedure, the Texas Observer reports.
For example, one group called Fund Texas Choice uses up to $5,000 monthly to help women seeking abortion care pay for their travel and accommodations costs, with individual trips ranging between $35 to $1,000. According to the Observer, the group between November 2013 and March 2015 helped to plan and pay for 158 trips for women to receive abortions.
Occasionally, Fund Texas Choice will put women in touch with another group, called the Lilith Fund, which runs a hotline women can call for help funding the abortion procedure. The Lilith Fund gives women in Central and South Texas small stipends for the procedure, while other groups -- the Texas Equal Access Fund and the West Fund -- do the same for women in North Texas and El Paso, respectively.
Meanwhile, according to the Observer, still other volunteer-led organizations help women by providing a ride to an abortion clinic in certain areas of the state. For example, Clinic Access Support Network helps provide rides for women in Houston, while the Bridge Collective provides this assistance to women in Austin and the Cicada Collective works for women in North Texas.
Lenzi Sheible, founder of Fund Texas Choice, said of the network of groups, "We fight on our own terms. Giving up is not an option ... Texans are not just going to sit here and let this happen to us" (Garcia-Ditta, Texas Observer, 5/11).