The State of Texas has been decimating access to Planned Parenthood clinics within its borders. Since 2011, Texas has been working concertedly to eliminate its citizens’ access to Planned Parenthood, and the state has severely restricted citizens’ ability to seek out family planning services in the process. In 2011, Texas cut grants for family planning services by 66 percent, reports the Los Angeles Times. The remaining money was also funneled away from Planned Parenthood and similar establishments, with most of the funds still available being diverted to public health departments and more comprehensive clinics.
Texas continued its assault on Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the first round of financial cuts resulted in the closing of 82 family planning clinics within the state’s borders, roughly one-third of them having some affiliation with Planned Parenthood. While the move was, at the time, reported as an attempt to divert public funds from being used to pay for abortions (already illegal), not every Texas legislator believed this to be the case. One representative, Wayne Christian, believed the move to have broader implications.
“Of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything — that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.”
The next round of financial attacks on family planning providers in Texas took exclusive aim at Planned Parenthood. In 2013, Texas took steps to circumvent laws that prevented the state from diverting Medicaid funding, which comes from the feds, away from Planned Parenthood. Because federal law prohibited the State of Texas from taking the federally funded Medicaid dollars away from Planned Parenthood, Texas got rid of it and replaced it with a state-funded healthcare program instead. The Texas Women’s Health Care Program was born, and it allowed the state to withhold funds from any family planning clinic with ties to an abortion provider.
The results of Texas’ assaults on Planned Parenthood were ultimately devastating to low-income women. While the number of Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas was relatively few prior to 2013 (only 23 clinics spread out over 254 counties), they bore the daunting responsibility of providing family planning services to 60 percent of Texas’ low-income women still in their reproductive years.
According to the study “Effects of Removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program,” which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on February 3, the actions undertaken by the state of Texas against Planned Parenthood have led to a sharp uptick in births by low-income women. The reason? These women have lost access to “affordable and effective birth control.”
The study compared contraceptive use before and after the State of Texas so concertedly worked to defund Planned Parenthood in 2013. According to researchers, there was a “sharp decrease” in the used of long-term, reversible contraception and contraceptive hormone injections in counties that had previously been served by a Planned Parenthood following the closure of the Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.
In fact, compared to the three months before the cuts to Planned Parenthood were implemented, there was a 36 percent decline in medical claims for IUD’s, implants and birth control injections just three months later.
This decline in usage of long-term birth control was not seen in counties that hadn’t had a Planned Parenthood prior to the state’s successful bid to shut their clinics down. In fact, counties that had never been served by a Planned Parenthood saw their instances of these contraceptive methods increase by almost four percent.
In counties where this reliable, long-term contraception was no longer available due to the closure of a local Planned Parenthood clinic, more low-income women had babies. The number jumped from seven to 8.4 percent in a mere 18 months. Over the same period, in counties that hadn’t lost a Planned Parenthood, the rate of births among the same demographic of women dropped from 6.4 to 5.9 percent.
The researchers in charge of the study estimate that among low-income women who lost access to Planned Parenthood services in their respective counties, the overall relative increase in births was 27 percent. The study authors went on to report that most of these births were “probably unplanned, since the increase was only seen in counties where women faced new hurdles in access to contraception.”
While the study does not definitively prove that the actions taken by the State of Texas to shut down dozens of vital Planned Parenthood clinics is directly responsible for the increase in births among low-income women, the correlation is difficult to ignore, the researchers noted. They went on to say that “after making it more difficult for women to get safe, reliable birth control, women switched to less reliable contraceptive methods, or skipped them altogether. The result is dozens of additional babies born” to some of the thousands of women no longer served by a Planned Parenthood clinic.
The statistics in the study also indicate that Planned Parenthood is responsible for the prevention of unintended pregnancy in a big way, and is far more than an “abortion provider,” despite its critics.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America, weighed in on the newly published research, as well.
“This new research shows the devastating consequences for women when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood. Politicians have claimed time and again that our patients can simply go to other health care providers — and tragically that’s not the case.”
The Texas legal assault on Planned Parenthood and abortion rights in general is still far from over. Texas’ recent legislative changes which have resulted in all but 10 abortion-providing clinics in the state being shut down, will be ruled upon by the United States Supreme Court, reports USA Today. The crux of the case against the State of Texas is the complaint that the new laws put an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, as many have to travel extensively to reach one of the remaining clinics in the state. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in June.
Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides with regard to Texas abortion laws, it appears that the state’s offensive against Planned Parenthood has already contributed to some serious reproductive consequences among the state’s low-income women. The same demographic of women Planned Parenthood had previously provided with quality family planning services for decades.
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