Abhor-tion: TX Reproductive Health, Family Planning Clients Down 77 Percent Since 2011

Documents from the State Health Services Council's most recent meeting reveal that Texas' 2013 budget for reproductive health and family planning has yet again dropped in clients served since 2011. As reported by the Austin Chronicle, there was a total drop of 77 percent in clients served from 202,968 people in 2011. This year, just 47,322 patients were served, while the cost per patient has continued to increase.

This ripple effect continues to be felt in our state due to lawmakers' decision in 2011 to slash two-thirds of Texas' family planning budget, cutting down from what was once $100 million for two years to just $38 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. In 2012, 127,808 fewer Texans were served than in 2011, with just 75,160 able to receive Pap smears, breast cancer screenings, and contraceptive care. In 2013, an additional 27,838 clients were not served. In the past two years, the conservative attack on reproductive health care has resulted in stripping access to basic preventative care for about 155,646 Texans.

These numbers reinforce the Republican leadership's disregard for reproductive health, which has resulted in more Texans being denied access to basic, cost-effective and life-saving cervical cancer and breast cancer screenings. The Guttmacher Institute has estimated about 1.7 million low-income Texans are in need of access to family planning.

Details from the meeting also reveal that while fewer patients have been dropped from Texas' family planning program, the cost per patient has continued to increase. According to the Department of State Health services in 2011, the average cost per client was $205.93. In 2012, the cost increased to $236.54 per client. This year, the cost increased again at $240.10 per client, meaning that in just two years the cost of service per client has increased by 17 percent.

Funding for family planning services will shift in the next biennial budget, but speculation remains regarding how the funding has been allocated. The Legislature voted last session to increase spending to $214 million in the 2014-15 budget, with most of the new funding ($100 million) will go to expanding primary care funding. There are concerns regarding whether provider capacity will be able to meet the large demand for family planning services, especially now that there is a provider shortage caused by the previous cuts. Sixty percent of these funds will be spent on family planning services, and will provide wraparound benefits including prenatal and dental care for pregnant Texans.

Another $71 million will go to the Texas Women's Health Program, the program that once received 9 federal dollars to every 1 spent by the state until Rick Perry lead the charge to exclude Planned Parenthood, providers who had the largest capacity to serve the clients most in need of services provided by the Texas Women's Health Program. Another $43 million will replace the family planning grants that the federal government awarded the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas because of the state's refusal to provide adequate services.

The Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas is now in charge of administering federal Title X family planning funding, whose funds have been used to reopen four clinics that were previously closed due to the 2011 cuts. One of these clinics includes a Rio Grande Valley Planned Parenthood clinic. According to Women's Health and Family Planning Association CEO Fran Hagerty, In just the first seven months of their two-year federal contract, the providers in this network have seen more than 80,000 clients.

Since 2011, Republicans have decimated basic reproductive care by forcing the closure of 76 family planning clinics and forcing another 55 providers to reduce their hours. It is unlikely that even the new funds available will be used most effectively due to the fact that Republicans continue to avoid spending actual family planning funding on family planning clinics. Until then, more money will be spent on fewer patients who are most in need of preventative care.

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