Texas Republicans Reconsider Cuts To Women’s Health Clinics After Realizing Unintended Pregnancies Are Likely To Rise

Some GOP lawmakers in Texas are suddenly realizing that defunding their state’s Planned Parenthood clinics isn’t a good strategy for helping women avoid unintended pregnancy.

The state’s Health and Human Services Commission projects that — in the aftermath of stripping Planned Parenthood from over $70 million in funds that used to go toward its family planning services, in Texas lawmakers’ ongoing crusade to target the women’s health organization — low-income women will deliver an estimated 23,760 additional babies during 2014 and 2015 than they would have otherwise. The HHS credits the sharp rise in the birth rate to the state budget cuts that have reduced poor women’s access to affordable birth control, and estimates that taxpayers will be shouldered with an estimated additional $273 million in medical expenses and Medicaid coverage for those infants.

And now that the HHS report is being circulated among Texas legislators, some of them are experiencing a wake-up call about the real impact of defunding organizations that provide low-income women with essential preventative health services:

“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.

She added, “I think there is some effort they’ll be willing to make to restore whatever we can.” […]

Senator Bob Deuell, Republican of Greenville, has been an advocate for getting Planned Parenthood off taxpayer financing, but he said last session’s family planning cuts had gone too far. He said he had the support of some of Texas’ leading anti-abortion groups to seek more money for birth control and reproductive health care in 2013 — as stand-alone services and as part of what he and Texas health officials hope will be a $70 million expansion of state-subsidized primary care.

I’ve debated this in Republican clubs with people— people who say it’s not the government’s role to provide family planning ,” said Dr. Deuell, a primary care physician. “Ultimately, they’re right. But you have to look at what happens if we don’t.”

Even if the family planning funding is restored, it almost certainly won’t be able to go toward Planned Parenthood clinics, even though that organization is the largest women’s health provider for low-income women in Texas. In their war against abortion services and providers, GOP lawmakers have insisted on excluding Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal Women’s Health Program funding — threatening the very survival of the organization, but also forcing unaffiliated clinics to close their doors as an indirect result of the new regulations to divert the funding.

And Texas Republicans may be interested to know that the new HHS report isn’t the only source warning about future soaring rates of unintended pregnancy in their state. A recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine also predicts that Texas women will be forced to start using less effective forms of birth control as a direct result of the shrinking number of health clinics providing affordable family planning services, increasing their chances of getting pregnant. And preventing such pregnancies should certainly be an attractive goal for the Texas GOP, even outside of the economic benefits, since lowered rates of unintended pregnancy directly correlate to lowered rates of abortion.