Cuts to family planning funding in Texas led to an increase in teen births and abortions in the state, according to a forthcoming research paper in the Journal of Health Economics.
In 2011, The Texas State Legislature restructured funding for family planning, ultimately reducing the state’s family planning budget by 67 percent, from $111 million over two year to just $37.9 million for the next two years.
The restructuring also formed a three-tiered system that allocates more funding to clinics with comprehensive health services over those that provide only family planning services. Public agencies that provide family planning services, including public health departments and federally qualified health centers, were classified as Tier 1, while non-public providers that offered both preventive and primary care in addition to family planning were Tier 2.
Specialty clinics, including Planned Parenthood, were classified as Tier 3 and faced the brunt of funding cuts.
When the funding cuts first took effect on September 1, 2011, 14 family planning clinics lost funds immediately, according to another research paper on the effects of the cuts. By the end of 2012, a quarter of family planning clinics in Texas had shut down, while 18 percent had reduced service hours, and 50 percent had fired staff.
The new study, authored by Analisa Packham, an assistant professor of economics at Miami University, found that the 67 percent decrease in funding has resulted in an increase in the teen birth rate by 3.4 percent, or nearly 2,200 more teens giving birth.
Additionally, the effects of those cuts were primarily felt in counties with relatively high poverty levels, and the increased birth rate was concentrated between two and three years following the initial cuts.
“Although the primary stated objective of the funding cuts was to decrease abortion incidence, I ﬁnd little evidence that reducing family planning funding achieved this goal,” Packham wrote in her paper.
She actually found the opposite effect.
In 2013, there was a 15 percent spike in abortions in the state. (The increase in 2013 was followed by a decline the following year. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Packham said she did not focus on the 2014 abortion rates because it is hard to disconnect those rates from House Bill 2, which cracked down specifically on abortion providers and was later found unconstitutional.)
What is abundantly clear is that the 2011 cuts to family planning funding did not result in a reduction in abortions, despite that being the stated goal of the restructuring. Packham noted the absurdity of the notion in an interview Monday.
Legally, no care provider can use federal funds to provide abortions, so Texas’s 2011 funding cuts hit family planning providers, not abortion providers.
“I don’t think it’s surprising that cutting funding to clinics that don’t provide abortion wouldn’t reduce abortion,” Packham said.
Packham notes that the estimated cost to taxpayers, on average, of teen childbearing is nearly $27,000 per birth, meaning the estimated cost of the reduction in family planning funding totaled $81 million for taxpayers through 2014. That $81 million figure does not include the costs of other women who gave birth or teen births that have happened more recently.
Ultimately, this means the costs to taxpayers of unintended pregnancy, $81 million, significantly outweigh the $73 million funding cuts.
Packham’s research backs up other research that has found funding cuts to Planned Parenthood in Texas has resulted in higher birth rates among low-income women who lost access to affordable birth control and that, two years after the funding cuts, Texas’s women’s health program was able to serve fewer than half the women it had previously been able to.
A study published in August 2016 also found that the 2011 cuts were at least partially to blame for a spike in deaths among pregnant women in the state.
A number of other states are currently considering cuts to funding similar to Texas’s 2011 restructuring, and New Jersey, Montana, New Hampshire, and Maine all recently took steps to limit funding for family planning services. Packham said these states and others should see her research as reason to be cautious about those cuts.
“State legislatures should take note of the consequences in Texas,” she said. “It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that if other states pass cuts like these … we’re going to see more unintended pregnancies.”