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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?