Rep. Donna Howard has more tact than I do.
When state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.
Now they are facing the policy implications — and, in some cases, reconsidering.
The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone — and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.
Ahead of the next legislative session — where lawmakers will grapple with another tough budget, including an existing Medicaid financing shortfall — a bipartisan coalition is considering ways to restore some or all of those family planning dollars, as a cost-saving initiative if nothing else.
“I know some of my colleagues felt like in retrospect they did not fully grasp the implications of what was done last session,” said state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who said she has been discussing ways to restore financing with several other lawmakers in both parties.
“A lot of us are talking about this,” she said. “I think there is some effort they’ll be willing to take to restore whatever we can.”
In other words, some of Rep. Howard’s colleagues are just now beginning to grasp the idea that more babies are the inevitable result of a public policy to restrict access to birth control. I’d suggest that we add the subject to the STAAR tests, but it’s too late for these august members of the Texas Legislature. Before you ask, this dawning revelation will not lead to any letup in the anti-Planned Parenthood jihad, because providing family planning funds to the leading provider of family planning service is beyond the pale. If we’re lucky, perhaps there will be another great epiphany in two years’ time.