In response to their anti-abortion base voters, Republicans are determined to defund Planned Parenthood as a part of their health care bill. Given their fondness for the idea of states as the laboratories for experimentation, they might want to check in to what happened in states that passed similar laws.
As reported by Laura Bassett, Texas Republicans slashed the state’s family planning budget in 2011, shutting down more than 80 women’s health clinics. A study conducted by economics professor Analisa Packham showed that “the abortion rate among teenagers in the state rose 3 percent over what it would have been had the clinics remained open.”
This part of the story hits particularly close to home because it names the county where I was born and spent most of my childhood.
The greatest rises in abortion rates occurred in rural areas, where access to affordable family planning care was already scarce. In Gregg County, where the local health center lost 60 percent of its family planning funding, the abortion rate increased by 191 percent between 2012 and 2014. The Austin American-Statesman reported that at least five counties in East Texas also saw “considerable increases” in abortions over that two-year period.
At a time when the abortion rate in the United States is lower than it’s been since the Roe v Wade ruling in 1973, that is a horrific indictment on the state of Texas.
Of course there are other issues at play. Not mentioned in this report is the fact that Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country and rejected the federally funded expansion of Medicaid in Obamacare. All of these factors intertwine in another horrific issue facing the women of Texas.
New mothers in Texas are dying of pregnancy-related causes at a higher rate than anywhere else in the developed world, “a life-or-death issue” that Walle says is “getting drowned out” by distractions such as the so-called bathroom bill. The state’s maternal mortality rate has doubled within a two-year period, according to a 2016 study, though experts say more research is necessary to explain the troubling spike.
As I suggested, I have a particular interest in all this due to my early years. But as Lawrence Wright wrote recently, “America’s Future is Texas.” That is particularly true if Republicans manage to pass their health care bill, which will defund Planned Parenthood, raise the number of uninsured and decimate Medicaid.
CBO said that defunding Planned Parenthood alone “would cause 15 percent of women in rural areas to lose access to family planning care entirely.” Without access to birth control, we’ll see more unplanned pregnancies with less access to Medicaid for prenatal care. As we’ve seen in Texas, that is likely to result in more abortions and higher maternal mortality rates. That is something to be ashamed of, not a model to replicate.