Texas officials want to cut funding for women’s health services while preserving an anti-abortion program

In addition to family planning, the women's health programs offer limited treatment for postpartum depression and screenings for sexually transmitted infections, cholesterol, diabetes, and breast and cervical cancer.                    Credit: Stephen Spillman for The Texas Tribune
In addition to family planning, the women's health programs offer limited treatment for postpartum depression and screenings for sexually transmitted infections, cholesterol, diabetes, and breast and cervical cancer. Credit: Stephen Spillman for The Texas Tribune

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Texas is proposing to cut nearly $3.8 million in funding from programs that offer low-income residents access to contraceptives and breast and cervical cancer screenings, while leaving intact a robustly funded program that discourages women from having abortions.

Texas health officials proposed the cuts while taking great pains to avoid belt-tightening in most other programs that offer direct services in health care. As the coronavirus pandemic ravages parts of the economy, leaving the state with a projected $4.6 billion deficit, Gov. Greg Abbott asked state agencies to cut their spending by 5% — but largely exempted programs deemed crucial to public health.

Among those spared: a rapidly growing Alternatives to Abortion program, which promotes childbirth and offers new parents financial counseling and social service referrals. Lawmakers doubled the program’s budget last year.

While the cuts are not finalized, an August budget document obtained by The Texas Tribune shows funding would be maintained for the anti-abortion program, but reduced for doctors and clinics that provide reduced-cost contraception and health screenings. The document acknowledges fewer people would receive those services as a result.

Advocates say the cuts are penny-wise, pound-foolish, pointing to a health commission finding that the programs saved Texas an estimated $19.6 million in a year by averting births with contraception and family planning. (The programs don’t cover abortions.)

Critics of the cuts fear they will destabilize providers already operating with thin margins and undo years of rebuilding efforts for women’s health programs after a drastic funding cut in 2011 led dozens of clinics to close.

Kami Geoffray, CEO of Every Body Texas, said the programs identified for cuts “have been shown to improve health outcomes — including maternal health outcomes, which have been a challenge in our state.”