Tuesday, December 11, 2012

If I Close The Tap Will Water Stop Running? The Texas Birth Control Experiment.

A peculiar thing happened in Texas!  Its lawmakers decided to do away with funding Planned Parenthood for political forced-birth reasons, even though this meant that many poor women would no longer have access to contraceptives.

And lo and behold!  Something utterly unexpected happened:

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, during which lawmakers will grapple with 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 Representative Donna Howard, Democrat of Austin, who said she had been discussing ways to restore financing with several other lawmakers in both parties.

The bolds are mine.   That lawmakers would fail to fully grasp what will happen when low-income women no longer can find affordable birth control, well, perhaps Texas should elect slightly smarter lawmakers?

The signs of reduced access have been clear for a while:
A new report published in the New England Journal Of Medicine, part of a three-year study intended as a direct response to Texas' drastic family planning cuts in 2011, finds that 53 clinics in the state have closed as a result of a 66 percent reduction in funds championed by conservative lawmakers. But will legislators listen to this new, Texas-focused research that bodes ill for the health and well being of Texans trying to plan their families? Or will they continue to wage a culture war that invigorates a conservative base and decimates programs that do demonstrable good—and that also save money?
It bears repeating: for every $1 investment in family planning, taxpayers save $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures.

It's not just access to contraceptives those clinic losses mean but also access to PAP smears and other preventive care.

But Planned Parenthood probably will not be refunded, what with that forced-birth approach of the Texas Republicans.  Indeed, one might argue that they are achieving exactly what they desire!  Too bad that it comes with a taxpayer cost,  of course.

I found various statements from the Texas governor Rick Perry most interesting.  When the federal appeals court refused to reconsider the arguments about Texas barring Planned Parenthood from its Women's Health Program (a victory for Texas),  Governor Perry said:

"Today's ruling affirms yet again that in Texas the Women's Health Program has no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion. In Texas we choose life, and we will immediately begin defunding all abortion affiliates to honor and uphold that choice."

But now his office tells us:

Asked whether Gov. Rick Perry would support returning money to family planning programs, his spokeswoman Lucy Nashed left the door open. “Last session the Legislature had to prioritize,” she said, speaking of the state’s budget woes.
“Every two years we take a fresh look at our resources and our needs.”
Interesting prioritizing, that.