It seems like simple logic: Cut womens' access to contraception and abortion services and those same women will naturally have more unplanned pregnancies.
Those are the facts just realized by the Texas state legislature; lawmakers were recently shocked to discover that because of their previous cuts to family planning services, poor women in Texas are projected to deliver almost 25,000 more babies than in previous years.
According to The New York Times, in 2011, Texas slashed $73 million from its family planning budget in an effort to drive Planned Parenthood out of its state. Arguments at the time stemmed from anti-abortion activists who balked at taxpayer dollars going to fund abortion services.
In truth, Planned Parenthood can’t utilize public funds for those procedures. Nonetheless, the urban myth remained, leaving citizens outraged at the thought that they were funding the abortions of poverty-stricken and "socially-irresponsible" women.
But cutting those clinic funds was a crucial misstep as Texas lawmakers are now realizing. The Health and Human Services Commissions projects that because of funding cuts, unplanned pregnancies will skyrocket, translating into an additional $273 million in taxpayer costs, approximately $108 million of which will come directly out of state revenue. The remaining will be covered by Medicaid. To make matters worse, there’s already a Medicaid financing shortfall.
So let’s address the elephant in the room: Wouldn’t it have just been cheaper to provide those birth control pills? (Yes.)
Representative Donna Howard, Democrat of Austin told the Times the error comes down to a lack of foresight. “I know some of my colleagues felt like in retrospect they did not fully grasp the implications of what was done last session.”
Lawmakers are now forming a bipartisan coalition to address fiscal policies that could reroute at least some of that money back into family planning services, but exactly how much and how soon is up for debate. And just because those funds could go back to some reproductive clinics, that doesn’t mean any of it will go back to Planned Parenthood in particular. Texas has a long history of demonstrating how much it reviles the organization and continues to spend its time and money in court fighting its existence.
But Texas isn’t the only issue. Painting women’s sexuality as a hobgoblin for societal ills has a long and rich tradition in many states, plenty of which go to far greater lengths to impede their reproductive freedom. Until women are unilaterally allowed fair access to contraception− the same kind that men enjoy when they walk into any gas station, convenience store, or supermarket and buy condoms unimpeded− then their ability to operate as equal citizens remains obstructed.
At least Texas is willing to alter its previous plan, even if it is purely for financial reasons. Whatever the impetus, we’ll take it.
Do you expect that Texas might inspire other states to take cost-cutting measures that could work in women’s favor? Let us know in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a web editor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com