Tens of thousands of low-income women could lose access to birth control and basic health care if the state of Texas moves ahead with a plan to eliminate Planned Parenthood from its Women's Health Program, according to a study (PDF) released Thursday by George Washington University.
Local health care providers, including those not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, also expect the state action would lead to a significant increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies and taxpayer cost for childbirth in the state.
According to "Deteriorating Access to Women’s Health Services in Texas: Potential Effects of the Women’s Health Program Affiliate Rule," the additional pregnancies and taxpayer-funded births would disproportionately affect poorer, less urban areas.
In many poorer, rural areas of Texas, no alternatives to Planned Parenthood exist. Where alternatives are available, the study authors conclude, "There is no evidence that they are prepared to sustain the very large caseload increases that would be required to fill the gaps left after Planned Parenthood affiliates are excluded."
But existing clinics in the five-county area in question are already at or near capacity, and could not absorb the needs of more than 52,000 clients served in 2010 by Planned Parenthood, Chuck Lindell of the American-Statesman in Austin, Texas, reported.
According to the study, the Legislature cut family planning funding from $111 million to $38 million for 2012-2013, and has already forced health clinics to close, curtail hours or charge higher fees.
Republicans in Texas have sought for years to ban Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program, which since its creation in 2005 has aimed to save taxpayer money by providing contraceptives to low-income women who would qualify for Medicaid coverage if they became pregnant, and to provide those women with basic health screeings.
The WHP excludes organizations that provide abortions services, but Planned Parenthood was able to continue in the program by offering abortions through affiliate programs.
Earlier this year, however, the state moved to exclude family planning centers that are Planned Parennthood affiliates. The federal government warned that such a change could lead to a withdrawal of up to 90 percent of federal funding as soon as Nov. 1, 2012, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed to continue the WHP—at a cost of $33 million a year—with state money.
Two lawsuits are pending, one in which the state of Texas is suing the federal government and another in which several Planned Parenthood affiliates are suing the state of Texas.
In April, a district court ruling delayed implementation of the "affiliate" rule, but a subsequent appeal reversed it nad returned it to district court, according to the study.
Planned Parenthood clinics could be barred from the Women's Health Program within several weeks, according to the study.
Andrea Grimes, writing in RH Reality Check, wrote today:
If the State of Texas cannot find the hundreds of new providers and clinics it will take to fill the gap left by Planned Parenthood, the negative consequences won't just be borne by the low-income enrollees in the WHP, but in higher bills for the state. Taxpayers will end up paying for more Medicaid births in the state. GWU estimated that, if Planned Parenthood had been excluded from the WHP in 2011, the state would lose $5.5 million to $6.6 million as a result of paying for the entirety of the program itself—instead of benefiting from the 90 percent federal match in funds it saw in years past—in addition to paying the costs for a larger number of Medicaid births to women who wanted to avoid a pregnancy and who before the program shift would have had access to free or affordable contraception and, by extension, more freedom to plan their families.