Texas Now Serves Fewer Family Planning Patients and Spends More Money To Do It

In the last legislative session, Texas lawmakers cut the state's family planning budget by two-thirds, a loss of around $73.6 million over the next two years. The reason behind this, naturally, was that "family planning" is clearly a secret code word for "abortion."

"Of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything," Representative Wayne Christian told the Texas Tribune. "That's what family planning is supposed to be about."

The facts that abortion and birth control are not the same thing, and that the state's family planning clinics don't provide abortions using taxpayer dollars, didn't seem to deter conservative lawmakers. As they busily moved money from family planning to elsewhere in the state's health services budget, they also put into place a new, three-tiered funding structure, one that ensured that clinics which only provided family planning services (read: Planned Parenthood) would receive their money dead last. (This "war," to use Christian's term, was separate from the one conservative lawmakers are waging to boot Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program , although they made it clear PP was also the real target in ransacking family planning. Yet plenty of small, non-PP clinics were also affected, with some reducing their hours, raising costs or even closing their doors altogether.)

Now, the Department of State Health Services has released new documents showing how the new, lean, highly efficient family planning budget is working for the state. Or not working. Those documents show that the program is now serving almost 128,000 fewer people, while spending more money per patient.

Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle was the first to lay out the new program's flaws . She points to a memo sent to the State Health Services Council by the Department of State Health Services. The memo, which we've posted below, shows that in 2012, the family planning budget served 75,160 people, at a cost of $236.54 each. Last year, before the cuts went into effect, the family planning money served 202,968 people, and cost $205.93 per patient.

In other words, the cost per patient has climbed by 15 percent, while the number of people served has nosedived by 63 percent. (A DSHS spokesperson told the Chronicle that's due to "infrastructure costs," and that the situation should "resolve itself over time.")

In the new funding structure, family planning money is going first to entities known as federally qualified healthcare centers, which are primary care community health clinics. There are 69 of them in Texas, according to DSHS, operating at around 300 sites.

But FQHCS aren't specifically set up to provide family planning services, and, as the Texas Observer points out they have struggled to cope with the influx of new patients. Outside of the new family planning money, many also continue to have serious budgetary issues of their own.

As former Dallas Observer staffer Andrea Grimes points out over on RH Reality Check, some family planning entities are trying a new tactic to restore some of their funding. The remaining money in the family planning budget is Title X funding, which is federal money that can legally only go to family planning services. A coalition of family planning entities hope they can apply for this money directly from the federal government, as they told the Texas Observer , thus avoiding the creative ways Texas has chosen to distribute it.

To sum up: the state's family planning dollars are serving fewer people for more money, at the same time that Texans will have to scrounge around for an extra $39 million this year to fund the new, Planned Parenthood-free, state-run Women's Health Program. All of this is ostensibly to prevent taxpayer-funded abortions.

Taxpayer-funded abortions are imaginary. But it's becoming obvious that the consequences -- to the state budget, to the Texas taxpayers who fund these services and to the poor men and women who use them -- are real.

DSHS Family Planning Memo

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan