By Bhavik Kumar, MD, MPH
In 2011, the Texas legislature cut its family planning budget by more than $70 million, resulting in a patchwork system of access to family planning services. Although much of this budget was restored in 2013, multiple barriers to care still exist. For example, abortion-affiliated family planning clinics that have commonly provided a significant amount of family planning and other preventive care are now specifically excluded from state funding programs like the Texas Women’s Health Program. Instead, much of the restored budget is being directed to primary care providers rather than specialized family planning providers.1 While Texas family physicians are well distributed throughout the state and provide care to a large volume of patients, it is likely a new role for many primary care providers who previously relied on family planning clinics that are now either cut off from state funds or have closed due to funding restrictions.
The recent changes have also had an impact on Texans trying to access health care services. The restructuring has resulted in confusion and complexity for patients accessing family planning care. Notably, the decreased funding has limited coverage for preventive care, such as cervical cancer screening, as well as long-acting reversible contraception like the intrauterine device and contraceptive implant. Unfortunately, the changes have been most harmful for low-income women who rely on state-funded programs for much of their health care needs.2, 3more