While a mountain of bills filed this session aim to curb Texas’ abortion rate, two Austin lawmakers hope their measure will prevent unplanned pregnancies from happening in the first place.
State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, filed identical bills calling for the renewal of the Women’s Health Program, a Medicaid waiver originally enacted five years ago, that provides family planning services to low-income women in Texas. Watson told reporters Monday morning that one year of family planning services cost $203 per woman, while the total Medicaid costs of an unplanned pregnancy and birth can reach up to $9,000 in the first year.
“The cost of helping women prevent unplanned pregnancies is a fraction of the cost of providing government services to indigent women and their babies,” Watson said.
Citing a study by the Health and Human Service Commission, Watson said the Women’s Health Program saved Texas about $21 million in general revenue just in 2008.
“By making this investment, Texas could save more than $100 million health costs over five years,” Watson said.
In its recommendations to save money this ugly budget session, the Legislative Budget Board recommended renewing the program and even expanding it. Allowing it to expire would be “a mistake,” Strama said.
“This is one where we know, based on historical and empirical evidence, where every dollar we spend saves us money in the immediate term,” he said. “Not to mention all the downstream costs.”
Senate Bill 585 and its counterpart House Bill 1255 – also called the Prevention Works Act – also has an education component that would require school districts to simply inform parents of their sex education curriculums whatever they may include.
“We’re not going to tell schools how to educate kids about sex,” Strama said. “What we do is empower parents by giving them more information than they have today.”
Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy and repeat teen pregnancy rates in the country.
“We have real issues regarding the teen pregnancy rate,” Watson said. “Let’s make sure we do it right.”