In 2011, Texas passed a budget that diverted $73 million away from family planning services. Only after the fact did they piece together the fact that limiting access to birth control would increase unwanted pregnancies, and that those pregnancies would cost the state big in Medicaid funding.
The cuts were originally implemented in a political, religiously motivated snub of Planned Parenthood — a supposed stand against abortion, even though Planned Parenthood clinics that received state funding never performed abortions. And abortion services only make up a tiny percentage of the care provided at any Planned Parenthood clinics, the majority being much-needed family planning services for low-income women.
Health and Human Services Commission projections indicate that in 2014-15, poor women will have an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have if their access to state-subsidized birth control hadn’t been slashed, the New York Times reported. The additional cost to taxpayers of providing Medicaid coverage to the infants is expected to be as much as $273 million.
Faced with these numbers and already insufficient Medicaid funding, a bipartisan coalition is considering restoring much of the state’s funding of family planning services. Conservative lawmakers haven’t changed their irrational stance on Planned Parenthood — which likely won’t be refunded even if other family planning services are, but they have seen that the political point they tried to make is more expensive than they expected.
“I know some of my colleagues felt like in retrospect they did not fully grasp the implications of what was done last session,” the Times quoted Representative Donna Howard, Democrat of Austin as saying.
It’s too bad that the decision to reverse some of the cuts came from purely fiscal concerns and not a sudden rebirth of logic and compassion and/or the removal of religious posturing from politics. But poor women in Texas will soon have access to birth control if they want it, which is cause for celebration whatever the motivation.