What Happened to the Birth Rate When Texas Defunded Planned Parenthood

(Photo: Corbis)

A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows evidence of what women’s reproductive rights advocates have been warning about for years: When Texas defunded Planned Parenthood, births by low-income mothers increased, many of which were covered by Medicaid. 

After Texas cut government funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates in 2013, researchers saw a steady decrease in the amount of effective, long-term birth control prescriptions that were filled. It also saw a steady increase in the number of births by women who had previously received birth control through the organization. 

“Our analyses suggest that the exclusion of Planned Parenthood affiliates from the Texas Women’s Health Program had an adverse effect on low-income women in Texas by reducing the provision of highly effective methods of contraception, interrupting contraceptive continuation, and increasing the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid,” write the authors of the report, who are from the University of Texas, 

The Planned Parenthood centers served roughly 60 percent of the state’s low-income women. Texas’ decision to cut any funding to the centers meant that women who relied on effective measures of birth control (such as IUDs) from the organization were no longer able to access or afford them. The number of women using IUDs dropped by 35.5 percent in two years, and the number of women who continued to get the Depo-Provera birth control shot fell by 21 percent over two years in counties in which centers were shuttered. 

The report is speculative and doesn’t show a causal relationship between Planned Parenthood defunding and a rise in low-income births, but it does reflect an important trend in reproductive rights. When Planned Parenthood centers are defunded or closed, it’s often the most at-need who take the greatest hit. As much as opponents want to believe that women have a variety of other, non-abortion-providing places to turn for health care, that’s rarely the case. Women who use Planned Parenthood’s services are often left without anywhere to turn, as reflected in the rise in births. Not only does this cost women their reproductive independence and futures — the Medicaid-assisted births and government assistance needed to raise children born to low-income families adds up to serious costs. 

This is the second time Texas’s Planned Parenthood organizations have been in the news recently — a Texas grand jury made waves when it failed to indict the filmmakers behind the series of anti-Planned Parenthood videos that claimed to show the organization selling fetal tissue.The grand jury found no wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part, but rather indicted the filmmakers. 

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