October 17, 2011 — Significant cuts to funding for family planning in Texas have strained many health clinics' ability to provide preventive health services for low-income residents, the Texas Tribune/New York Times reports.
Texas' family planning budget was cut from $111.5 million to $37.9 million over the next two years. Budget analysts warned that the decrease in funding would affect at least 180,000 men and women annually and could lead to 20,000 additional births at a cost of more than $200 million. In addition, lawmakers cut funding to any organization that provides or refers for abortion services, including clinics that solely provide primary and preventive care. Another measure approved this year requires physicians to perform ultrasounds on women seeking abortion care and describe the fetus in detail. What is happening in Texas is emblematic of a nationwide trend, as antiabortion campaigners work within Congress and state legislatures to make access to abortion as difficult as possible.
This year, 11 Texas clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood received state support, down from 40 clinics the previous year. Fifteen providers -- including nine not affiliated with Planned Parenthood -- lost contracts with the state this year because of "lack of need" or because there was another agency "within the same service area."
Planned Parenthood supporters said that more than 95% of the organization's services consist of preventive services and other routine health care. Although clinics that receive government aid legally separate family planning services from their abortion services, the distinction has not stopped antiabortion-rights lawmakers from targeting them.
While 66 Planned Parenthood clinics remain open in Texas, lower funding has led to reduced clinic hours and fewer educational outreach efforts. The Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County -- a network of eight clinics that provides family planning services to 23,000 patients -- lost a $3.1 million contract and was forced to lay off half its staff and shut down four facilities. The clinics provide services such as contraception, breast and cervical cancer screening, wellness exams for men and women, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
Because the region has a limited donor base and a high need for health services, PPAHC relies heavily on government funding, the Tribune/Times reports. According to PPAHC CEO Patricio Gonzales, the closings will affect about 16,000 low-income men, women and teenagers in the Rio Grande Valley (Tan, Texas Tribune/New York Times, 10/15).