More than half of Texas women faced at least one barrier to accessing reproductive health care in the years after lawmakers dramatically altered the state’s family planning services, according to a new report by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project.
The project's researchers, who are based at the University of Texas at Austin, focused on access to reproductive services — including family planning, cervical cancer screenings and contraception — starting in 2011. That's the year the Republican-led Legislature cut the state’s budget for family planning by two-thirds and rejected a federally financed women’s health program in favor of a state-run program.
Since then, lawmakers have worked to restore services, allocating millions of dollars to new programs focused on women’s health care. But the 2011 cuts led to the closure of 76 women’s health clinics statewide.
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Affordability, insurance issues and a lack of nearby providers were among the top barriers women reported facing between 2011 and 2014, according to the study, which included 779 women between the ages of 18 and 49. And young, low-income women with less education — particularly Spanish-speaking Hispanic women who were born in Mexico — faced the most barriers to reproductive services.
Lawmakers are considering ways to consolidate the state’s women’s health programs to fill the gaps in access to health care for poor women. Republican state Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound has suggested combining two major programs — the Texas Women’s Health Program and the Expanded Primary Health Care Program — to do it. But some lawmakers and health care advocates have warned against yet another round of changes.
Jolie McCullough contributed to this report.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.