On the same day Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King suggested taking federal funding from Planned Parenthood (oh, and food stamps, of course) to pay for the construction of Trump’s proposed Mexico border wall, and amidst the Senate GOP’s push to pass a health care bill that would slash funding for women’s health organizations to give billionaires tax breaks, new data from the state of Texas reveals just how severely this would blow up in conservatives’ faces.
According to research from Texas A&M University, in the first three years after Texas Republicans substantially cut the state’s family planning budget in 2011, effectively shutting down more than 80 percent of the state’s women’s health clinics, the rate of abortion among teenagers rose 3 percent higher than what it would have been, had these clinics remained open. In most cases, the alternative to having an abortion as a pregnant teenage girl would be dropping out of school — a real shame that access to Planned Parenthood could have very easily prevented.
And, of course, the findings of the study couldn’t have perfectly accounted for the state’s teenage girls who may have been forced to travel out of state for abortion, or put themselves at serious risk with “do-it-yourself” procedures. The disparity in the rate of abortion among teenagers could potentially be greater than 3 percent.
Expensive and burdensome travel, as well as often dangerous self-terminations go hand in hand with barriers to abortion access, which Texas, a state of millions of women of reproductive age and 19 clinics, has no shortage of, and as a result, abortion rates remain steady even with heavy restrictions.
That’s why investing in family planning is the best way to prevent the need for abortions — and why defunding family planning has dire consequences conservatives should take into consideration.
“This certainly isn’t the way to have fewer abortions,” Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OB-GYN in Maryland and an advocate with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Huffington Post of defunding women’s health clinics. “The abortion rates nationally have decreased and are at a historic low. So for Texans to see an increase in adolescent abortions is really telling ― it seemed to have followed the national trend until these clinics were defunded.”
The availability of women’s health clinics, which offer sexual health education and affordable or cost-free contraception, is one of the most powerful determinants in a region’s abortion rates. Some 40 percent of unintended pregnancies result in abortion, according to research. Then-Gov. Rick Perry (R) said his “goal” was to “ensure abortions are as rare as possible under existing law” in slashing state funding for Planned Parenthood, but if anything, it looks like he achieved quite the opposite.
To be clear, a higher rate of abortions isn’t what reproductive justice advocates are cheering for — in an ideal world, women would have access to the affordable birth control and education to never need to experience an unintended pregnancy in the first place, but since anti-choice Republicans have dedicated their careers to preventing this, safe, legal, and accessible and affordable abortion are a must.
Of course, while the rate of abortion dropped a staggering 14 percent from 2013 to 2016 in Texas, this was largely due to low-income rural areas stretching more than 100 miles without access to an abortion clinic as a result of state laws shutting abortion clinics down left and right. Sure, this might have been Gov. Perry and other Republicans’ goal, but it’s difficult to celebrate the idea of thousands of women being forced to give birth to children, many of whom will end up born to impoverished families or struggling through the underfunded adoption system.
Today, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the GOP’s health care bill would result in 15 percent of women in rural areas losing access to family planning care entirely, leading to more unplanned pregnancies and as a result, more abortions.
Of course, it’s worth noting that around the world, a surprising majority of the people having abortions are mothers who already have children, not the stereotypical reckless, irresponsible teenagers. According to research, sexually active teens are often far more responsible than they’re given credit for, and across the board, the majority of people who have abortions were using some form of contraception, according to Guttmacher Institute.
But in either case, it should go without saying that when young people don’t have the resources to prevent a pregnancy, that also means they don’t have the resources to prevent an abortion.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.