Texas births increase after funding cuts

By: Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor

What happens when easy access to birth control suddenly vanishes?

You get a whole bunch of babies born into families that aren’t ready for them. Imagine that.

A study, released on Feb. 3 and conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, shows a significant increase in births among low-income women. This surge is in Texas, a state that formerly funded Planned Parenthood and offered women affordable birth control.

According to the study, only 23 of the 254 counties in Texas had a Planned Parenthood before 2013. However, they served 60 percent of the state’s low-income women. The overall increase in births, most of which were unplanned, was 27 percent for women who lost access to the Planned Parenthood clinics. In each county, the number of women who gave birth due to unexpected absence of contraceptives rose from 7 percent to 8.4 percent over 18 months.

This all started on Oct. 19, 2015, when the Texas government issued a statement that said it was ending both state and local tax-paid Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics. This decision came out of an attempt to “[provide] greater access to safe healthcare for women while protecting our most vulnerable – the unborn.”

Texas cut this funding in an attempt to quell the number of women being referred for abortions. Personal views on this matter are controversial and polarizing. As a disclosure, in most scenarios, I am pro-life.

However, cutting all funding to an abortion clinic that also delivers fundamental health necessities is shortsighted and irresponsible. Planned Parenthood screens Pap smears and mammograms, gives tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, offers physical exams, administers flu or tetanus shots, tests cholesterol levels and provides birth control or emergency contraceptives.

It’s a safe place for women – and men – to go to take care of themselves. Slashing funding ultimately leaves a large group of people underserved with no idea of where to go next for care. Given the rise in births, it’s evident that women aren’t going anywhere next for their medical needs, and that’s a problem.

This is even after the state said in its statement that care would not be interrupted by this decision because of other birth control providers in the Texas Women’s Health Program and Medicaid. Clearly, that’s not the case. Texas should either reinstate funding for Planned Parenthood or organize a separate clinic that women feel just as comfortable to go to for their contraceptive needs.

It is completely understandable that Texas wants to protect unborn children. But isn’t the best way to prevent abortions making sure that women have accessible options available to prevent conception? Severing access to birth control might only panic unprepared mothers-to-be into making rash decisions.

Even worse, it might lead to those unexpected children living difficult lives. These new mothers may not have the time, knowledge, money or other means necessary to raise their child in the way they deserve. These kids could be neglected or abused. Or, they could be funneled into an already overcrowded foster care system, where Angels Foster Family Network says only 54 percent go on to graduate high school and only 2 percent earn bachelor’s degrees.

Women should be able to choose when they want to have a child. By taking away birth control access for low-income women who clearly have no other place to go for it, that choice is also taken away. The birth is not the thing that’s being lamented but rather the scenario in which it happened.

The increase in Texas births is not what is being lamented but rather the scenarios and circumstances under which they happened. Children are wonderful blessings that deserve equally wonderful lives. Mothers deserve the chance to provide them that opportunity when they are ready.