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Texas takes on family planning

Historically in Texas, legislators saw family planning programs as a fiscally responsible solution to growing state costs stemming from unplanned pregnancies.

But by the state’s last legislative session, conservative thinking in the Lone Star State had shifted.

Emily Ramshaw speaks to Need to Know correspondent Mona Iskander about the history of family planning legislation in Texas. Video by Elisabeth Ponsot.

In an exclusive web interview with Need to Know in August, Emily Ramshaw, Editor of the Texas Tribune, spoke about how conservative lawmakers had begun equating family planning programs and women’s health clinics like Planned Parenthood with abortion in the United States.

“The concern among Republican lawmakers is that Planned Parenthood is an affiliate of abortion providers,” Ramshaw said. “While Planned Parenthood clinics that get state or federal money cannot perform abortions in Texas, Republican lawmakers fear that the line is not clear enough. They worry that any state or federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood can, in some way, fund abortions.”

In turn, Texas lawmakers cut the family planning budget by two-thirds over the last legislative session, forcing many clinics across the state — particularly those serving rural and minority populations — to close their doors.

Now, state legislators may be rethinking that course of action.

In today’s Texas Tribune, Ramshaw writes that lawmakers are now reconsidering last session’s budget cuts to family planning after projections show unplanned pregnancies are slated to cost taxpayers as much as $273 million.

The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control.

The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone — and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.

What do you think? Is family planning a smart economic move to reduce unplanned pregnancies? Or, are conservative lawmakers correct to associate family planning with abortion?


  • Ladyirol

    Insurance companies realized a long time ago that not supporting family planning was a very expensive, short-sighted decision. That is why most happily pay for birth control… Pregnancy – especially unplanned pregnancy can be a game-changer in most lives. It affects a low-income life to a far greater degree. It was a very unwise decision to cut that funding years ago and now the taxpayers are footing the bill for that decision.

    And no, family planning and abortion do not go hand-in-hand. Abortion would never have been an option in my life, but an oops in my husband’s second year of college proved to be one of those life changing events for my family. The challenge was deep, and we survived, but the family planning that brought our second child into the world made a huge difference in the strain (or lack thereof) that my unplanned child put on our lives…

  • WallopinWill Martin

    Is it Texas government policy to increase the population of desperately poor children? What is wrong with allowing each woman to decide to have a child only when she can bring it into a decent home with a decent father? Do you think Jesus favored fecklessness? If so, consider Luke 14:28-30 in view of 1 Peter 2:5 in which believers are to see themselves as a building project worthy of planning. Or, does Texas see a pregnancy as a punishment for parental fecklessness at the expense of a desperately poor and neglected child? Is it the goal of the Bible that every fetus be delivered, or rather that every family be healthy? Consider Numbers 5:20-22 (CEB) where Moses required that any fetus resulting from adultery should be destroyed for the sake of family health. It is absurd to suggest that anyone prefers to use abortion as a substitute for good family planning. But, situations can change so radically that prospects of successsfully combining family health with a pregnancy may disappear. Andrea Yates of Houston and her family would certainly have benefited from the opportunity to choose a more opportune time to bring another child into the world..

  • Anonymous

    These Texas ultra conservative legislators that voted for this will be the first ones to complain about all the single girls & women who receive welfare & food stamps to support their children they had due to unwanted pregnancies because these women didn’t have access to family planning.

  • Johanna

    Excellent piece but the elephant in the living room here is the “why” behind the cuts in funding. What was NOT mentioned in this segment is the historical oppression and control of women through refusing them reproductive choice. The Catholic Church has historically promoted zero birth control which many believe has facilitated the endless struggle just for survival in many deeply religious third world countries including most of Latin America. If a woman is kept in an endless cycle of birthing – when and how does she rise up? When and how does she promote herself or pursue any kind of career or, God help her, try to participate in politics for change. The idea that funding has been cut from reproductive choice and added to programs for children’s mental healthy would almost be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. How many emotional and mental illnesses are a direct result of poverty? How many children are the victims of domestic violence in households where drugs and alcohol become the only release for parents who feel completely powerless to effect change in their lives? Women are not and should not be reproductive slaves and this, above all, is what the “conservative” right is working very hard to make a reality. A reality that existed less than 50 years ago will make a come-back. Unless we — as a people — overthrow fanatical dictators masquerading as public servants. @johannaclear

  • fneuberg

    If one doesn’t condone abortion it seems evident to me that one should be in favor of contraception. Aside from being an intelligent choice economically, the world already has 7 billion people. I wonder how much this is part of climate change, I am sick and tired of the right-wingers who refuse to see we are destroying our world. I am 85. When I was a young married woman, the world’s population was 2 billion. Enough!!!