Texas' Crisis in Access to Birth Control
The political climate for family planning in Texas is -- in a word -- hostile. Over the course of the last two years, the longstanding antagonism toward contraception among state political leaders has spilled over into a full-blown attack on women’s health:
- State lawmakers enacted massive cuts to the state’s family planning budget last year, slashing family planning funding by two-thirds. As a result of these cuts, at least 150,000 Texas women have lost access to basic preventive care, including birth control and cancer screenings.
- Due to political posturing by state leaders, the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which also provides these services, is threatened with a loss of federal funds, as well as a lack of qualified providers.
- Recent national efforts to impose further barriers to accessing birth control, such as allowing employers to deny insurance coverage of contraception to their employees, are also likely to be considered soon by the Texas Legislature.
The pervasive attitude of state leaders is perhaps best captured by state Representative Wayne Christian, who in a moment of candor, told a reporter during in the 2011 legislative session:
- Rep. Wayne Christian
What are the consequences of this growing crisis? In addition to higher healthcare costs for Texas, lack of access to contraception leads inexorably to more unplanned pregnancies, which results in higher risks of child abuse and neglect and more abortions in our state.
The 2013 legislative session in Texas represents a crossroads for the state. Either law-makers will continue to strangle family planning programs -- or worse, promote extreme new laws that would allow employers to withhold health insurance coverage for contraception -- or public outcry and pressure from the public health community will force them to reverse course and renew support for preventive healthcare services.