Devastating budget cuts to family planning in 2011 caused widespread collateral damage, leaving 147,000 Texas women without services and the women’s health safety net in tatters. This session, the Legislature took a big first step in repairing that damage by funding family planning programs that will serve approximately the same number of women Texas did before the cuts.
However, it’s unclear that enough family planning providers are available. Access to services might still be limited despite restored funds.
Tama Shaw, executive director of Hill Country Community Action, says the San Saba family planning clinic run by HCCA, which was one of 56 that closed due to the cuts, won’t be able to reopen despite restored money. Last summer, she laid off staff, sold equipment, and vacated their office space. “We have been living with cuts for a long time,” she says. “We didn’t have enough to keep the doors open after 2011, and now it’s just too hard to start over.”
Hill Country Community Action served more than 6,000 women at one point, and specifically the San Saba clinic was serving 1,000 before it closed. Though Shaw has been sending former patients to surrounding areas for care, women sometimes face financial and transportation challenges that keep them from traveling for their health care services.
The solid commitment the 2013 Texas Legislature made to funding family planning services is a huge and necessary step forward, but it is not sufficient alone to ensure low-income women have the tools they need to plan the size and timing of their families.
Read Stacey’s analysis of what happened this session with the state family planning programs and what challenges remain in ensuring Texas women get the services they need.