A plan to save money on family planning clinics in Texas has failed after budget cuts of $73 million was projected to lead to cost increases of $273 million in the same time period, according to state legislators. Now, the statehouse is scrambling to figure out a plan for re-funding family planning in Texas that won't anger constituents or make them look like they've changed their mind overnight about budget cuts they argued for vociferously just last year.
The cost increases are due to an estimated additional 24,000 births that would occur in the state of Texas if family planning clinic funding was discontinued. Lawmakers initially discontinued the family planning funds by two thirds for several different reasons. The first is that the state's Republican lawmakers have been looking for places in the budget to save costs.
The second reason for the family planning budget cuts was more political. Many lawmakers in Austin believed that the cuts would be de-funding abortion activities in the state. However, Texas already did not allow state funding to be used for abortion procedures, consultations, or medications. The family planning cuts came directly out of clinics that primarily worked to test patients for sexually transmitted infections, provide pregnancy planning and pre-natal care, and distribute condoms and birth control to prevent unintended pregnancies from occurring.
Over 50 clinics in the state of Texas were forced to close after the cuts, leading to a spike in births for 2013 that may cost the state $200 million more than it bargained for. Today, lawmakers are debating a proposal that would give the family planning funds back—but not to specific family planning clinics.
Currently, the remaining Texas state-run family planning clinics have been funded with federal family planning dollars instead of the state budget. However, Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations have put in bids for the federal money, claiming they can do a better job with the funding at providing access for Texas's women. The federal government will determine whether public or private non-profits receive the money after reviewing the bids later this year.
Instead of focusing on family planning clinics, state lawmakers are proposing a $100 million increase to funding for women's health in the primary care system. According to bill sponsors, this increase would work to ensure that women's health was taken care of regardless of whether or not she needed services relating to her sexual or reproductive health.
Sources: tx.gov, nytimes.com