Texas lawmakers are backtracking on cuts made in 2011 to women's healthcare funds after being smacked by the reality of new and costly unplanned pregnancy estimates.
Joining the growing chorus in support of women's health funding, on Monday religious leaders representing Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Universalist and Jewish faiths visited the Capitol to ask the Legislature to restore family planning funding.
“Faithful religious people from all over Texas care about women’s health, and precisely because of their faith convictions, support access to family planning and birth control,” said Pastor Larry Bethune of the University Baptist Church in Austin.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut the state's family-planning budget by two-thirds, or $73 million, leaving more than 127,000 women without access to reproductive healthcare and closing over 50 family-planning clinics across the state, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.
Following projections by Health and Human Services that this will lead to 24,000 additional unplanned births in 2014-15 for women in poverty on Medicaid—at a $237 million cost to taxpayers—Republican lawmakers are backtracking on their stance and scrambling to restore funding to the important prevention services.
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“There’s an advantage to guiding that money to the family planning, that preventive care piece, because that’s where the cost savings occur,” said Janet Realini, leader of the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition.
The New York Times reports that state senators are proposing earmarking $100 million in general revenue for a state-run primary care program, specifically to be used for women’s health services. They continue:
The additional money could increase the number of patients served annually in the program to 234,000 from 64,000 and nearly double the number of participating health care organizations, to 100 from 57, according to the Department of State Health Services.
“I know some of my colleagues felt like in retrospect they did not fully grasp the implications of what was done last session,” said Representative Donna Howard, (D-Austin). “I think there is some effort they’ll be willing to make to restore whatever we can.”
A recent poll sponsored by women's health advocates the Texas Freedom Network found that among the 604 registered Texas voters surveyed, 73% believe Texas should fund family planning services—including birth control—for low-income women and 57% said they oppose lawmakers' 2011 cuts to family planning, the Austin Chronicle reports.