Here’s the least surprising story of the year. After massively cutting state funding to family planning clinics last year, the state of Texas is now discovering that it will cost them almost four times as much because of all the unwanted pregnancies and they’re trying to figure out how to restore the funding without angering the religious right.
Using taxpayer dollars to finance family-planning services has become politically thorny in Texas, largely because of Republican lawmakers’ assertions that the women’s health clinics providing that care are affiliated with abortion providers. In the fiscal crunch of 2011, the Legislature cut the state’s family-planning budget by two-thirds, with some lawmakers claiming that they were defunding the “abortion industry.” Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, found that more than 50 family-planning clinics had closed statewide as a result.
Now, amid estimates that the cuts could lead to 24,000 additional 2014-15 births at a cost to taxpayers of $273 million, lawmakers are seeking a way to restore financing without ruffling feathers.
Several state senators have suggested earmarking $100 million in general revenue to the Community Primary Care Services Program, to be used for women’s health services. The program contracts community health clinics and nonprofit organizations to provide a range of services for poor Texans who do not qualify for other state health programs. The additional money could increase the number of patients served annually in the program to 234,000 from 64,000 and nearly double the number of participating health care organizations, to 100 from 57, according to the Department of State Health Services.
Health care advocates say there are reasons to restore federal family-planning financing, rather than putting state dollars into primary care. But that money, which Texas relied on in previous budgets, is no longer a sure thing. Two other organizations, including Planned Parenthood, that have submitted bids to receive and distribute the federal family-planning dollars.
“The goal has always been to keep the funds out of the abortion industry,” said Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life. She hopes the expanded primary-care program will serve a broader population but said Texas Right to Life was “still investigating the participating providers to ensure none are affiliated with abortion providers.”
Yeah, because political ideology should always be more important than women’s lives.