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53 Texas Family Planning Clinics Close

Deep slashes to family planning funds made during Texas’ last legislative session have caused an epidemic of family planning clinic closures, according to a new article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
 
 
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This article originally appeared on the Web site of The American Independent.

Deep slashes to family planning funds made during Texas’ last legislative session have caused 53 clinics that provide family planning services to shutter their doors, according to a new  article in the  New England Journal of Medicine.

Additionally, 38 clinics reduced their hours, and many of the existing clinics have been forced to lay off staff and cut back basic services as a result of “the most radical” legislative effort to curb reproductive health funding in the nation, the study finds.

These findings mark the first stage in an< /br> ongoing three-year analysis — conducted by the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin — of the short- and long-term effects of Texas’ budget cuts to family planning services and reproductive health care.

During the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers decreased family planning dollars from $111 million to $38 million over two years and created a three-tiered funding system, which granted priority funding to “comprehensive” primary care providers (known as “ federally qualified health centers“) and placed clinics that primarily provide family planning services, like Planned Parenthood, at the bottom of the funding pyramid.

In response to the legislative cuts, the Texas Department of State Health Services reduced the number of funded family planning agencies from 76 to 41, as noted in the study. DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen told The American Independent in an email that there were 300 state-supported family planning clinics in 2011, and this year there are 143.

Until now, there was little information about the status of the defunded clinics, as the department does not track clinic closures. Van Deusen said the department doesn’t have information on the status of providers they are no longer funding and only keeps up with providers they contract with.

To get those numbers, the sociologists conducting this research surveyed 56 reproductive health service directors, who shared on-the-ground realities of the drastic cuts. Researchers were told that many clinics reduced their services in response to the budget cuts.

“Facing severe budget cuts, most clinics have restricted access to the most effective contraceptive methods because of their higher up-front costs,” the report says.

For instance, methods such as the intrauterine device (IUD), typically costing clinics around $250 each, are now rarely offered. Patients are being directed toward birth control pills as a result, but even then, fewer packs of pills are disbursed per visit, which can end up decreasing the likelihood that women will actually continue the drug. In turn, that can potentially lead to higher rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion, the report says.

The projection falls in line with estimates from the bipartisan Legislative Budget Board, which — in an  analysis obtained last year by the  Texas Observer — predicted that family planning budget cuts could lead to more than 20,000 additional births for women eligible for Medicaid.

“The health community is raving about how the most promising opportunity to decrease the rate of unintended pregnancy in the future is in these long-acting methods, like IUDs,” University of Texas at Austin professor Joseph Potter, who co-authored the study, told TAI. “And here we are, pretty clearly going backward, not forward.”

The extensive cuts are also forcing providers to charge women for services once covered by public funds. According to the study, those who are unable to pay the newly adopted fees for services like preventative well-woman exams are turned away, and those who can pay are opting for less effective methods of contraception, buying fewer pill packs, and forgoing sexually transmitted infection testing.

 
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