Sunday, September 23, 2012

Family Planning: The Great Debate

Kimberly Carter, MD
In Texas, the majority of unanticipated pregnancies are among the 18–24-year-old, uninsured, low-income, minority population. “If we want healthy children, adults … healthy Texans, who are not going to continue to be a burden on the social welfare system, then we should champion ways to make individuals responsible for their contraception and personal health,” said Kimberly Carter, MD, an Austin obstetrician-gynecologist.

 Dr. Carter was one of four panelists on “Family Planning: The Great Debate,” one of many topics discussed during the 2012 Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. Other panelists included Rep. Donna Howard, (D-Austin), Rep. Bryan Hughes, (R-Mineola), and Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. The panelists discussed why the 2011 legislature cut funding for women’s health services and how these cuts are now playing out in Texas communities.

The Women’s Health Program, which does not provide abortions, delivers cost-effective basic health care screenings — such as for cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes — as well as birth control. This is the only source of such preventive care for many low-income women in Texas.

Outlined in Texas Medical Association's Healthy Vision 2020, more than 70 percent of pregnancies among single, young women in Texas are unplanned. Increasing the number of women who enroll in the Women’s Health Program after a Medicaid delivery is especially important. Women who have had a Medicaid-funded delivery are at particularly high risk for subsequent pregnancy, often so soon after the first delivery that they face much greater risks of having premature or low-birth-weight infants. Babies born too soon or too small often have significant health problems, such as breathing or developmental delays, contributing to higher medical costs at birth and as the child ages. In 2007, unplanned Medicaid births cost the state more than $1.2 billion.

Representative Howard and Dr. Carter said Texas must spend money to educate young people about contraception. Studies show educating teenagers about contraception actually delays sexual intercourse and decreases unintended pregnancies. By rebuilding Women’s Health Program, Texas can give young couples the tools to take responsibility for their future and protect their own health and their children’s.
Baylor medical student asks a question at Texas Tribune Festival


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