Attacks on Planned Parenthood Are Devastating Women's Choice, New Study Confirms

Protesters gather at a rally in front of the state capitol building in Austin in 2012. (Photo: scATX/flickr/cc)

Attacks on Planned Parenthood Are Devastating Women's Choice, New Study Confirms

Low-income women especially at risk, as research shows claims for birth control have dropped while Medicaid-paid births have jumped

A new study confirms that politically-motivated attacks on Planned Parenthood are hurting low-income women, who are losing out on access to birth control as clinics are increasingly forced to reduce their shutter their doors.

Texas, where the conservative legislature has led a campaign to defund the public health organization, has seen "adverse changes in the provision of contraception" in the state, according to a new study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the two years since the state cut off public funding for the organization, areas with a Planned Parenthood saw a drop by more than 30 percent in provisions of the most effective reversible methods of contraception--injections, implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs)--while Medicaid-paid births jumped by 27 percent, researchers with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) at the University of Texas at Austin found.

Between January 2011 and December 2014, claims for IUDs and implants dropped 35 percent and claims for injectable contraceptives dropped 31 percent.

"Simply put, dedicated women's health providers matter," said Dr. Joseph Potter, a UT-Austin sociology professor, who supervised the study. "Providers who are mission-driven and have the requisite experience and knowledge appear to be critical for the delivery of the most effective methods of contraception--IUDs, implants, and injectables."

"From a demographic perspective, this is important because both national studies and local studies show that these methods dramatically decrease unintended pregnancy. We also have accumulating evidence that there is unmet demand for these methods in Texas," Potter said.

Heather Busby, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice America Texas, said in response to the study, "Low-income Texans are suffering from the ongoing politically-motivated attacks on reproductive health care. People have lost access to preventative health care, including birth control, and have lost access to their trusted health care provider. Every person should have access to full-spectrum health care, regardless of their income."

The study comes as Planned Parenthood faces an onslaught of defunding efforts throughout the country. Republican strongholds have targeted the organization's local chapters over a series of controversial "sting videos" concerning the group's handling of fetal tissue, with New Hampshire and North Carolina also cutting the organization's access to family planning funds.

In January, a grand jury in Texas which was created to investigate Planned Parenthood's Houston affiliate cleared the organization of any wrongdoing and instead indicted the anti-choice activists who made the videos.

Despite the reprieve for Planned Parenthood, conservative lawmakers at the state and federal level have continued their efforts to defund the group and increase restrictions to abortion.

Amanda Jean Stevenson, lead author and Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UT-Austin, said the study "isolates the effect of the exclusion not only on the delivery of services but also on subsequent deliveries paid by Medicaid. We examined differences between counties that had and did not have a Planned Parenthood affiliate, finding worse outcomes in places impacted by the exclusion; whereas places unaffected by the exclusion continued as they had before."

"The U.S. continues to have higher rates of unintended pregnancies than most rich nations, and we know that U.S. and Texas women face barriers as they try to access preventative services," Stevenson said. "It's a public health issue that Texas women struggle to achieve their reproductive goals."

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