New England Journal of Medicine Details Impact of Texas Family Planning Cuts

September 27, 2012 — More than 50 Texas clinics that provide family planning services have closed as the result of state cuts to family planning funding, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Texas Tribune reports.

The changes to the two-year family planning budget, which the Legislature approved last session, decreased funding by two-thirds and created a tiered system under which priority goes to public health clinics over those that only offer family planning services. As a result, funding ended to 35 out of 76 clinics that exclusively provide family planning services, and budgets for those that still qualified dropped by up to 75%.

Of the 240 clinics that previously received public funding to provide family planning services, 53 have closed and 38 have reduced their hours, according to the NEJM report. Many of the clinics that are still open have started charging for services that previously were offered at no charge, raised prices for other services and restricted access to more effective contraception methods that are more expensive.

Contraception and well-woman visits "remain out of reach for some of the poorest women," while women who can afford the fees "are choosing less-effective methods, purchasing fewer pill packs and opting out of testing for sexually transmitted infections to save money," researchers wrote.

The report is part of a three-year study by the Population Research Center at the University of Texas-Austin that focuses on how the cuts affect women's health. Joseph Potter, co-author of the report and a sociology professor at the university, said the researchers also plan to examine the effects on birth, unintended pregnancy and abortion rates in Texas, as well as related financial consequences (Aaronson, Texas Tribune, 9/26).