April 8, 2013 — Last week, the Texas House took an important step toward restoring 2011 budget cuts that "caused more than 55 family planning clinics across the state to close and left remaining providers with less funding and more patients in need of care," Joseph Potter -- a professor at the University of Texas-Austin -- writes in an opinion piece in the Austin Statesman.
Potter notes that a research team at the University of Texas-Austin examined "the devastating impact of the previous session's cuts to women, and to taxpayers, across the state." They found that the number of women served at Department of State Health Services-funded clinics declined from 234,710 in fiscal year 2010 to 90,826 in 2012. Potter writes, "This decline will lead to an additional 20,000 Medicaid births, which will cost about $231 million in medical expenses alone, with the state having to cover 42.6 percent of those costs, or about $98 million." The team also has developed a web app that provides impact estimates for every county, Public Health Region, Senate district and House district in Texas.
Potter writes that "one of the most concerning" effects of the funding reduction "is a shift in the type of contraception provided to low-income women," adding that the cuts have forced some family planning providers in Texas "to cut back on the provision of [long-acting reversible contraceptives] due to their higher up-front costs."
Determining the impact of the budget cuts on abortion is difficult because the reductions took effect at the same time as a law requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, Potter writes. He also discusses the impact of lawmakers' decision to prevent Planned Parenthood from participating in the state's Women's Health Program, questioning the state's claim that there still is a sufficient pool of skilled providers for women.
"There is no escaping the damage to women's health done by the measures taken by the previous Legislature," Potter writes. He adds, "However, lawmakers have an opportunity to reverse much of that damage, both by funding reproductive health services for men and women and ensuring that providers with the skills and experience needed to deliver those services are not excluded from the new programs" (Potter, Austin Statesman, 4/6).