November 16, 2015 — Independent health experts disagree with Texas officials' claim that the number of patients who accessed family planning services in the state last year is at the same level as it was prior to funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, Reuters reports (Sullivan, Reuters, 11/12).
The state Legislature in 2011 cut the state's family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women's health clinics. 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. In 2013, the health commission estimated that unplanned pregnancies in 2014 and 2015 due to the budget cuts would result in an additional 24,000 babies.
To mitigate the effect of the 2011 cuts, Texas legislators during the 2013 session increased women's health funds for the 2014-2015 state budget. The funds went toward operating the Texas Women's Health Program and replacing the family planning grants that the federal government awarded to another organization to distribute. Meanwhile, $100 million was used to establish the Expanded Primary Health Care program, which provides low-income women with contraception and health screenings.
In September, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced that, under a legislative order, it will consolidate the Texas Women's Health Program and the Expanded Primary Health Care into the Healthy Texas Women program (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/25).
Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last month said he would cut Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program.
Experts Contest State Figures
Texas officials report that the state's family planning programs in fiscal year 2014 reached 317,393 women, which is close to the 320,044 women reached by such programs in fiscal year 2010, before the state enacted the Planned Parenthood funding cuts.
However, independent experts say about 250,000 women accessed family planning services in FY 2014. According to the experts, the state's figures are inaccurate because they include women who used Expanded Primary Health Care for services besides contraception.
Meanwhile, CDC data show that one-third of Texas women did not have a regular health care provider 2014. By contrast, one-fifth of Texas women said they did not have a regular provider in 2010, according to CDC data (Reuters, 11/12).
Texas Lawmakers Restrict Abortion Access, Support CPCs
In related news, the number of antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers in Texas is increasing, even as the number of abortion clinics decline under the funding cuts and contested abortion restrictions, USA Today reports.
Overall, THHSC reports that Texas has boosted funding for CPCs, as well as other services in the Texas Alternative to Abortion Services Program, to $9.15 million in 2015, up from $2.5 million in 2008.
According to the Guttmacher Institute's Elizabeth Nash, Texas provides more funding for CPCs than any other state. Citing efforts in eight other states this year to fund the centers, Nash said, "This is yet another way for abortion opponents to pursue what they see as their mandate, which is to support any type of law or policy that minimizes abortion."
Joe Pojman, head of the antiabortion-rights group Texas Alliance for Life, said there are about 230 CPCs in Texas.
Advocates Voice Concerns
Women's health advocates have noted that CPCs cannot act as a replacement for Planned Parenthood clinics, USA Today reports.
For example, Texas Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D) said CPCs do not offer medical services that Planned Parenthood can provide, such as cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and birth control. Further, Dukes raised concerns about oversight, saying, "One cannot audit nor get any firm grasp on what [CPCs] provide other than a guilt trip to women regarding their pregnancy." She added, "The only thing they're doing is a counseling service based on guilt against abortion."
In addition, an investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice Texas into 16 Texas CPCs last year found that the centers provide incorrect or misleading information about abortion. The investigation also noted that CPCs frequently delayed appointments to continue pregnancies and discourage abortion, according to the report (Jervis, USA Today, 11/12).