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Are Anti-Abortion Efforts Curtailing Healthcare Availability in TX?

October 19, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Legislature has cut family-planning aid by two-thirds over the next two years - from $112 million to $38 million - and health clinics around the state already are feeling the pinch. They're reducing hours, laying off staff or closing their doors altogether.

Sarah Wheat, interim co-chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood in Austin calls it "heartbreaking." She says an estimated 320,000 Texas women also are losing access to basic health care. Family-planning clinics, she explains, are often the only places uninsured women can go for wellness and preventive care.

"Texas already leads the country in the number of uninsured women, and we're adding over a quarter of a million additional women who are now without access to breast and cervical-cancer screenings, HIV tests, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as their birth control."

The budget cuts have been embraced by so-called "pro-life" forces who say family-planning dollars subsidize abortions - even though, by law, abortion services cannot be paid for with public funds. Texas Right To Life director Elizabeth Graham thinks it isn't possible for clinics which offer abortion services to separate public funds.

"Family-planning funds subsidize the abortion industry, so legislators really wanted to make sure that the clean health-care providers were the priority."

Wheat says most of the so-called "clean" providers do not consistently offer crucial health screenings or family-planning services.

With women having less access to contraception, she says, one of the unintended consequences could be a rise in the number of Texas abortions.

"The leading cause of abortion is an unintended pregnancy. If women are losing access to reliable, affordable birth control, that's going to put them at risk for an unintended pregnancy."

Lawmakers did increase funding to certain pregnancy-crisis centers, which they say will help fill the health-care gap.

Basic health care has fallen victim to politics, say critics who insist that the funding cuts will cost lives. Gov. Rick Perry has expressed a determination to zero out all Planned Parenthood assistance, although just a fraction of the organization's services are abortion-related.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX