Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Family Planning Program Vital to Healthy Babies

By Patrick Shannon Ramsey, MD, MSPH

As a practicing OB/GYN in San Antonio, I was shocked to hear the number of organizations that provide health care to low-income Texas women has fallen from 78 in 2010 to just 41. The dramatic cuts to Texas Family Planning programs already is affecting low-income women in need of health care. The loss of 37 programs will only worsen Texas’ already high teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy rates.

Here in Bexar County, funding for several family planning programs was slashed or eliminated altogether. Many low-income women won’t have access to basic health services, such as well-woman exams, cancer screenings, and birth control. Access to basic health services and birth control is critical to the health of women and all other Texans. More than 60 percent of pregnancies in Texas are unplanned. As a result, these babies are more likely to suffer from medical complications such as low birth weight, premature birth, and breathing problems. And, since around 50 percent of births in Texas are covered under Medicaid, unplanned pregnancy costs tax payers millions of dollars each year.

I am reminded of this in my practice every day when a teenage mother visits my clinic late in her pregnancy and with serious preventable pregnancy complications. The leading reason these women neglect to seek care earlier is their inability to access and afford care. If these women were able to receive family planning and prenatal services, pregnancy could have been potentially avoided, and if not, at least prenatal care could have reduced the mother’s chances of having a pregnancy complication and increased the likelihood of a healthy newborn.

The Texas Family Planning Services program is a necessary and vital safety net for low-income women in Texas. We must do all we can to see that it is protected and adequately funded to serve uninsured women in Texas.

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1 comment :

Dr..Janet Realini said...

Thank you, Dr. Ramsey, for making the case for prevention!

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