Thursday, December 15, 2011

Family Planning Crisis hits San Antonio

The deep Family Planning cuts made by the 82nd Texas Legislature went into effect September 1, and the negative impact is becoming apparent in San Antonio. As a result of a $2.2 million cut to its family planning program, the University Health System (UHS) will close its "Westend" clinic, located in the Frank Garrett Community Center, on Feb 1.

As detailed in the San Antonio Express-News, neighborhood residents expressed dismay and disappointment at the loss of the clinic, one of 9 clinics transferred to UHS from the city's Metropolitan Health District in 2008. The Westend Clinic provides primarily family-planning services for men and women, including contraceptives, cancer screenings, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

The budget produced by 82nd Texas Legislature slashed funding for the Family Planning program by two-thirds (from $111.5 million to $37.9 million) for 2012-2013. This is the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) program that provides federal funds to clinics and hospitals for checkups and birth control (not abortion) for low-income Texans.

Even before the cuts, this program was able to reach fewer than 20% of women-in-need. After the cuts, the Legislative Budget Board estimated that these cuts will mean nearly 284,000 fewer women will receive these preventive services, resulting in more than 20,500 unplanned births. These cuts are also calculated to result in $231 million more in Medicaid costs, $98 million of which will come out of state funds.

Around the state, clinics are already closing, laying off staff, and cutting back hours. The Family Planning cuts are affecting providers in Dallas, Austin, and Hidalgo County. As reported in the Dallas Observer, the cuts have hit every family planning agency in the state, large and small. Most clinics lost two-thirds of their funding, and 14 agencies lost all funding.

Many members and friends of the Healthy Futures Alliance (HFA) are distressed by the loss of services, especially the preventive services that are so crucial to preventing teen and unplanned pregnancy in our community. We know that even the best education cannot be fully effective without access to preventive medical care. We are concerned that lack of access will increase teen pregnancy rates, increase rates of unplanned pregnancy in adults, and lead to more abortions.

Reprinted from the Healthy Futures Alliance (HFA) newsletter. HFA is a community coalition dedicated to reducing teen and unplanned pregnancy in San Antonio.  HFA has members who are pro-choice and others who are pro-life, but all are working together on prevention, using science-based strategies.  Learn more about HFA, and Healthy Futures of Texas, the non-profit that supports HFA, at www.HealthyFuturesTX.org.

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