Texas Cuts Family Planning Funds While Boosting 'Abortion Alternatives' Program

August 15, 2011 — The Texas Legislature last month voted to cut funding for family planning services by two-thirds and increase the budget for the state's Alternatives to Abortion Services program by $300,000 for each of the next two fiscal years, the Texas Tribune/New York Times reports. The change means that nearly 180,000 Texas residents likely will lose access to birth control and preventive care next month, according to the Tribune/Times.

Alternatives to Abortion -- which was created in 2006 and serves more than 1,500 women monthly -- oversees 47 health care providers, including 26 crisis pregnancy centers, social services, adoption agencies and maternity homes. It receives money from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission through the not-for-profit Texas Pregnancy Care Network. For fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the program's budget is $8.3 million. Meanwhile, family planning funding was cut from $111.5 million to $37.9 million.

State Rep. Sid Miller (R) said the decrease in family planning funding is a "direct attack" on Planned Parenthood. "I think we're trying to shut down abortions in Texas and doing that through cutting off the purse strings," Miller said.

The guidelines for the Texas Pregnancy Care Network state that "misleading a woman in crisis pregnancy about the scope of available services is neither compassionate or caring." The network also prohibits the use of graphic images, and the state reviews phone protocols and advertising. Centers are required to offer nonspiritual counseling.

Pam Cobern -- executive director of Austin LifeCare, one of the CPCs in the Texas Pregnancy Care Network -- said the center does not refer women to clinics that are affiliated with Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers. Austin LifeCare offers no-cost counseling, diapers, clothing, and parenting and personal finance classes. Cobern said the center receives funding from more than 40 churches and 3% of its budget -- $45,000 -- comes from the state. In addition, obstetricians and nurses volunteer to offer ultrasounds and pregnancy tests at the center.

Sarah Wheat, interim chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said the organization offers many preventive and reproductive health services beyond abortion. "This is basic women's health care that has been funded for generations, and one of the reasons it's been funded is because it works," Wheat said (Tan, Texas Tribune/New York Times, 8/13).