Report: budget cuts, Planned Parenthood funding ban dismantle safety net

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that Texas budget cuts and an attempt to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood in the state has led to “the dismantling of a safety net” that serves low-income, working class women. The report also says that recreating the safety net will be difficult if funding is not restored soon.

Meanwhile Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that he will continue his efforts to ban Women’s Health Program funds to Planned Parenthood. The Women’s Health Program is a safety net program that provides an array of health services to pregnant, working class women, who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to be able to afford private health insurance. Planned Parenthood is the state’s largest provider of Women’s Health Program services.

In 2011, the state legislature at the behest of Gov. Perry reduced the state budget by $15 billion. Among the state services cut were family planning services for low-income women. The budget reduced funding for family planning services from $111 million to $37.9 million.

According to the report, entitled “Cutting Family Planning in Texas,” the funding cuts reduced the number of family planning organizations receiving state funding  from 76 to 41.

Organizations that continued to receive funding saw their funding cut by as much as 75 percent. Most were forced to reduce services.

According to the report, which is based on the results of interviews with 56 leaders of reproductive health organizations in Texas, the funding cuts have caused some organizations to offer less effective but cheaper forms of birth control and charge fees for services such as screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted disease. The fees are causing some women to opt out of these services.

When the legislature reduced funding for family planning services, it also targeted Planned Parenthood. It passed a law prohibiting organizations affiliated with abortion services from receiving Women’s Health Program funding.

Planned Parenthood clinics don’t provide abortion services, but they do provide information about abortion services.

Despite the ban, Planned Parenthood, which serves nearly half of the 115,000 women enrolled in the Texas Women’s Health Program, continues to provide program services in some areas because of a ruling by the US Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which provides 90 percent of the funding for the Women’s Health Program.

CMS ruled that the Texas ban violates federal law, which says that states may not restrict program participants’ choice of health care provider. As a result of this ruling, the state has been unable to enforce the ban.

But Gov. Perry has vowed to continue trying, and he is hoping that a recent decision by a federal appeals court that upholds the state’s ban will force the federal government to continue funding the program when the ban is implemented.

Gov. Perry had said that the state would implement the ban even if CMS does not reverse its decision and the state has to pay for the full cost of the program.

“Texas will not allow a program that includes abortion providers or their affiliates like Planned Parenthood to be a (Women’s Health Program) provider,” said Gov. Perry at a recent press conference.

Gov. Perry also had said that the state had found 500 local health care providers to continue Women Health Program services and was ready to implement its ban and take over full control of the program by November 1.

But November 1 came and went, and the state has still not enforced the ban or taken full control of the program.

The next important deadline is December 31 when federal funding for the program expires.

If federal funding is cut off, it’s difficult to see how the cash-strapped state could fully fund the program at its present level. If that happens, nearly 50,000 working class Texas women who receive Women’s Health Program services through Planned Parenthood could lose access to birth control, cancer screening, and other vital health care services.

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