While Texas has some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on reproductive health care, it has also drastically cut funding to family planning centers. At the same time the state has increased funding to so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPC), which has decreased the access women have to reproductive health care in the state. In Rick Perry’s Texas, women are not trusted to make their own reproductive health care decisions.
As the Texas Tribune reported, the Texas Legislature cut $73.6 million from the Department of State Health Services budget for family planning programs. The budget for family planning went from $111.5 million from 2010-11 to $37.9 million for 2012-13. According to the DSHS own reports the funding cuts will cause a reduction of 180,000 client out of 220,000 that receive family planning services. The Legislative Budget Board estimates that the cuts could lead to 20,500 additional births.
Dorothy Reno, Director of Clinics of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, explains below in an interview with Thanh Tan of the Texas Tribune what effect the cuts in family planning will have on Texas women. These effects could include women not detecting breast or cervical cancer until the later stages, or not detecting a sexual transmitted disease (STD) until after transmission to a sexual partner or it having an effect on their fertility.
When taken in the context of a legislative session that saw the Texas budget slashed, especially in areas such as health and human services, it is easy to consider the move to cut family planning as part of a general program of austerity. Except that while the legislature was cutting funds to provide low income women in Texas with access to basic reproductive health care, it was increasing funding for ideological driven CPC’s.
According to reporting by the Texas Tribune, the legislature increased the budget of the Alternatives to Abortion program by $300,000. The $8.3 million budget for the program goes to fund Texas Pregnancy Care Network (TPCN), a nonprofit organization that contracts with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. These funds fund CPC’s, adoption agencies, social service agencies and maternity homes. While the legislature cut funds for women’s reproductive health care, it increased funds for a program that has been a public policy failure.
As the Texas Independent reported, the data shows that by any measure the Alternatives to Abortion program has not met its goals and policy objectives. While the state funded family planning programs served approximately 220,000 women annually, the Alternatives to Abortion program only serves 18,000. In 2010, the program fell nearly 20% short of its projected client goal but was rewarded a 60% budget increase in 2009. The program also funnels funds to urban areas while ignoring rural areas that have less access to health care.
Not only are COC’s a policy failure – but they are Constitutional failure as well. Investigative reporting by the Texas Independent shows that CPC’s “routinely blur the line between counseling and religious proselytizing.” This investigation shows that TPCN’s own documents of inspections showed a failure to label and separate “spiritual materials from its education materials.” The investigation also showed that volunteers are told to invoked God when clients want an abortion and to “tell them to trust God, he’s got a bigger plan.”
While conflating religion and medical information, CPC’s has also been found to provide misleading and false information. A federal report commissioned by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) showed that “federally funded ‘pregnancy resource centers’ are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma.” The report found that 20 of 23 federally funded centers told clients misleading or false information about abortion, including the dubious assertion that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.
The NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Foundation laid out the failures of the Alternatives to Abortion program in a report earlier this year. “The Alternatives to Abortion program provides no recommended health services, does nothing to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy (and thus the need for abortion), and uses millions of taxpayer dollars to fund a limited network of controversial, unlicensed, and unregulated social service providers.”
At a time when America is facing the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, when poverty rates in Texas are rising, and the uninsured rate in Texas is the highest in the nation, the Republican dominated Texas legislature cut funding for programs proven to helping working women while increasing funding for religious organizations that do nothing for women’s health care.