A little more than three years after Texas effectively defunded Planned Parenthood by cutting funding to any organization that offers abortions, an Austin-based research team has released a report that shows how much women are affected when women's health programs are cut. And the numbers are about as dismal as you might expect.
The study, which was performed by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at UT Austin and published yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine, shows a significant decrease in the number of women who filed claims for long-acting reversible contraceptives, like IUDs and implants, two of the most effective forms of birth control available. Two years before Planned Parenthood funding was cut from the program on Jan. 1. 2013, 1,042 women filed claims for LARCs under the state's Medicaid Women's Health Program. By the end of 2014, that number dropped by 35.5 percent, to a mere 672 women. Those figures are just as bad for women who use injectable contraception—within the same timeframe, those claims dropped from 6,832 to 4,709 (or by 31.1 percent).
Unsurprisingly, the study shows a 1.9 percent increase in the birthing rate in counties that once had state-funded Planned Parenthood clinics during that same time period of 2011 to 2014.
If there were any remaining doubts about how cutting Planned Parenthood funding affects women, those should be pretty much cleared up by this new data. When Texas removed Planned Parenthood from its state Medicaid family-planning program, low-income women who qualified for the program were no longer able to afford some of the most highly effective contraception options. And the subsequent consequence was an uptick in the birthrate.
Combine all of this with the fact that Texas politicians have done pretty much all they can to make abortion nearly impossible to access in the state, and you have a lot of low-income women who can not only not afford birth control but don't have a way of safely ending an unwanted pregnancy.
The bittersweet, not-so-silver lining in this is that Texas has basically served as a giant testing ground for policies that federal legislators have been promising constituents and trying to get passed on a national level for years. What's happening in Texas is a preview of what happens when you take away health care from women. The effects would only be felt harder if you took health care away on a national scale.
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