The bizarre marriage of political convenience between religious fundamentalists and fiscal conservatives runs apace in Texas.
In a recent 2011 legislative victory, these moral visionaries cut $73 million from the budget for family planning services to poor women. Their reasoning followed the usual twisted path; we don’t like abortion, Planned Parenthood provides abortion, let’s cut funding to the state’s largest provider of non-abortion reproductive services (birth control, pap smears, breast exams, counseling) to impoverished women.
Imagine their dumfounded shock when births to poor women are projected to miraculously skyrocket over the next two budget sessions. The projected costs of delivering and raising these babies will fall squarely on the shoulders of Texas taxpayers, which now finds a few republican legislators furiously backsliding from their evangelical kissing cousins.
When state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.
Now they are facing the policy implications — and, in some cases, reconsidering.
The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone — and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.
In a perfect world every baby would be wanted, viably healthy and born to responsible parents with adequate financial means. In this imaginary realm all people would take responsible, proactive measures to prevent unwanted pregnancy, including paying for their own birth control.
Since this ideal is not the case and because I am a realist, it is simply commonsense public policy to spend far less tax dollars providing comprehensive birth control for poor and underage women than spending substantially more money after the fact raising the results of their unintended pregnancies. I’m also not opposed to tax dollars being spent on abortions for these unprepared, predominately teenage, potential mothers.
It’s bad enough Texans have to suffer an evangelized state school board intent on teaching creationism in public classrooms alongside a syllabus of abstinence-only sex education, now they expect us to fund the immediate financial needs as well as the anticipated future social burdens (which turns the state’s projected $273M figure into small change) that will naturally result from their unrealistic, religiously driven, dogmatic view of human reality.