In the latest politically motivated attack on Planned Parenthood, Texas is poised to lose millions in funding for teen pregnancy prevention, family planning services and STI screenings, but this time the threat is coming from Congress.
Last week the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee approved recommendations to cut all $101 million federal funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and all $286 million of Title X federal funding, a 40-year-old program that provides states with money to cover birth control and STI screenings for adults and adolescents. In the last year, Texas received more than $20 million from the programs combined.
The full House Appropriations Committee will vote on these budget measures on Wednesday.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teen pregnancy prevention efforts and publicly subsidized contraception not only save tax dollars by helping women and teens avoid unplanned pregnancies and the costs associated with the births that follow, but also reduce abortions.
Over the last five years, Texas has received more than $37 million, about $7.4 million annually, through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which is administered by the federal Office of Adolescent Health. Five entities, including school districts, university medical schools and nonprofits, have used that funding to develop evidence-based sex education, sexual health and parent communication programs.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Texas ranks among the top five states for the highest teen pregnancy and repeat teen birth rates. If TPPP funding is cut, Texas will lose out on even more money over the next five years to implement evidence-based programs more broadly across the state.
“These are programs that are proven to work,” said Gwen Daverth, president of the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “There is a very strong chance that Texas would be a very large recipient of that $101 million that’s on the chopping block.”
In addition to eliminating the 5-year-old Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, the congressional budget proposal reappropriates $10 million of that funding to “sexual risk avoidance” (read: abstinence-only) programs.
Also on the chopping block is Title X, which serves as an important source of funding for contraception, STI testing and treatment and other basic health care for Texas women, men and adolescents at a time when reproductive and preventive services are hard to come by in the state. According to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, more than two-thirds of Title X patients are poor.
Approximately $14 million in Title X funding flows to Texas every year. The Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas manages the grant and distributes the money to 29 providers statewide, which operate 100 clinics that serve about 140,000 Texans. The organization has been in charge of Title X in Texas since 2013, when the state health department lost the grant after it cut state family planning funding by more than $70 million in 2011 in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.
Title X is also the only publicly funded family planning program that does not require minors to get their parents’ consent when seeking contraception. Nationally, every $1 spent on public family planning services saves about $7 in related costs of births, and in STI and cancer treatment, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In 2010, the program saved Texas more than $300 million in tax dollars.
“On average it costs less than $240 dollars to provide a year’s worth of family-planning services to each client,” Fran Hagerty, president and CEO of the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, wrote in an email to the Observer. “Compare that to the cost of just one Medicaid paid birth at over $12,000, and it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out the financial benefit of the Title X program to Texas and the nation.”
The proposals to eliminate funding are the latest attempt by GOP lawmakers to cut public funding for Planned Parenthood. House Republicans in Congress have tried for four years to eliminate Title X funding because some of that money goes to Planned Parenthood health centers, though no Title X funds, or any public dollars go toward abortion services. In the past, the U.S. Senate, controlled by Democrats until last year, has been able to stave off attacks, but with the Republicans controlling both the U.S. House and Senate, reproductive health advocates are calling on elected officials to reject the cuts. U.S Reps. Kay Granger (R-Fort Worth), Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), John Culberson (R-Houston) and John Carter (R-Houston) serve on the full House Appropriations Committee. Requests to their offices for comment were not returned by deadline.
The Texas Legislature, meanwhile, wrapped another legislative session last month having kicked Planned Parenthood out of a state program that has nothing to do with abortion. Over the weekend, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a two-year state budget that excludes the organization from the state Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, despite a nearly three week-long protest by activists, women’s health advocates and cancer survivors calling on Abbott to line-item veto the measure. The BCCS was the last state program Planned Parenthood participated in, after the 2011 Texas Legislature wrote the organization out of state family planning programs.