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It’s about much more than abortion

Yet another reminder that even if the Legislature had taken no action on abortion since 2011, it still grievously damaged women’s access to healthcare.

The closure of nine of 32 family planning clinics in the Rio Grande Valley — a result of the state Legislature’s decision to cut family planning financing in 2011 — has compounded the struggles of low-income, Latina women trying to access reproductive health services, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

“Profound barriers to reproductive health, including cost, lack of transportation, immigration status and lack of accessible clinics, mean that Latinas in Texas are systemically barred from the care they need to live with health and dignity,” Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “These conditions are dangerous to the health of Latinas and immigrant women.”

The Legislature’s decision in 2011 to cut two-thirds of the state’s two-year family planning budget — to $37.9 million from $111 million for 2012-13 — has caused 76 medical facilities across the state to close or stop providing family planning services as a result of lost public financing, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), a three-year study at the University of Texas evaluating the impact of the cuts to family planning services.

The enactment of stricter abortion regulation in November — the constitutionality of which is currently being debated in federal courts — has also caused a third of state’s nearly 40 licensed abortion facilities, including the only two abortion clinics in the Valley, to stop performing abortions. The Center has provided legal assistance to the abortion providers involved in that lawsuit.

Although the report released Tuesday focuses on the Valley, TxPEP researchers have found women across Texas have lost access to trusted providers, experienced longer wait times for services and paid higher rates for contraception and other health services, as a result of the 2011 cuts to family planning services.

In its 2013 session, the Legislature sought to mitigate the impact of the 2011 cuts with the largest financial package for women’s health services in state history, increasing spending to $214 million in the 2014-15 budget from $109 million. Texas’ 2014-15 budget includes a $100 million expansion of a primary care program to provide services for an additional 170,000 women; $71 million to operate the Texas Women’s Health Program; and $43 million to replace family planning grants that the federal government awarded to another organization to distribute.

The efforts to rebuild access to reproductive health care is slow moving, as the state is still in the process of contracting providers to participate in the expanded primary care program. Texas Women’s Health Program, which replaced the federally-financed Medicaid Women’s Health Program in January after the state violated federal rules by ousting Planned Parenthood clinics, has fewer women enrolled and has processed fewer claims so far this year than during the same time period last year.

See here for some background. As I said before, even if a sufficient number of new clinics eventually opens and the state’s replacement Women’s Health Program matches the reach and breadth of the Planned Parenthood-anchored network that the Lege and Rick Perry killed off, you can’t undo the damage and disruption that the original cuts caused. Tens of thousands of women were left in the lurch, often to the detriment of their health, and most if not all of them will wind up with a different doctor than who they had before. All of this was done in the service of ideology. When we talk about a war on women, when Wendy Davis talks about truly being “pro-life”, this is what we’re talking about.

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