As The American Independent has reported, Texas’ six-year-old Alternatives to Abortion program has consistently received increases in state funding, while organizations that provide reproductive-health and family-planning services for the uninsured has steadily decreased. This year, the state Legislature did more than cut family-planning funding, however. It also cut billions of dollars from social-service programs that crisis pregnancy centers and maternity houses refer to under the directive of Alternatives to Abortion.
The services — nutritional supplements through the Women, Infants, Children program (WIC); free medical care through Medicaid; children’s health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) program – benefit Texans in need. In Alternatives to Abortion evaluation reports produced for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), one of the main services highlighted for each entity that receives state money for this program is referrals for state social-service programs.
For Texas’ 2012-2013 biennium budget, the state Legislature:
- cut family planning funding, from approximately $111.5 million to $37.9 million,
- raised Alternative to Abortion funding, from $8 million to $8.3 million,
- left the state’s Medicaid funding about $4.8 billion short of full funding (though, as The Washington Post recently reported, a lot of this money will likely have to come out of the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”).
After the Alternatives to Abortion program was created, HHSC commissioned site-evaluation reports from the Texas Pregnancy Care Network (TPCN), the nonprofit contracted by the state to manage and disperse funding to currently 33 CPC and maternity agencies (about 44 individual sites total).
In a collection of site reports from June 2005 to October 2010 – previously obtained by The Texas Independent — the most common services, as documented by TPCN, included “counseling and mentoring”; education classes on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and adoption; assistance with food, shelter, clothing and medical care; and referrals to other community resources.
A frequent phrase found in the reports: “The Center receives client referrals from local churches and schools, and makes referrals to local adoption agencies and community services like WIC Program” (San Martin de Porres House of Hope in El Paso), or “The Center makes referrals to State services like Food Stamps, WIC Program, Community Health Clinics, Attorney General’s Office Child Support Enforcement, Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (Gabriel Project Life Center in Austin and Bryan).
On subsidized centers’ individual websites — such as those of Gabriel Project Life Center, A Woman’s Haven in San Antonio and Austin LifeCare in Austin – under “Services,” they commonly list referrals to state health and social-service programs.
Last month, state Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) wrote an editorial in the Houston Chronicle, criticizing the GOP-dominated Legislature’s final budgetary decisions, claiming the family-planning cuts “could also mean more than 20,000 additional unplanned pregnancies – which means more emergency Medicaid births, more parents dependent on CHIP, WIC and Medicaid, and an increase in abortions in Texas.”
While these programs to which Alternatives to Abortion frequently refers women have faced deep budget cuts, the Alternatives to Abortion program, particularly its staff, has been relatively insulated from the same treatment. As The Texas Independent has previously reported, TPCN’s reimbursement rate is higher than what the state pays, under Medicaid, for nurses to provide family-planning services. The rate is also higher than the Medicaid rate for therapy sessions with master’s-level social workers.
According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities (PDF), Texas Medicaid funding, as it currently stands, provides “basic health care and life-saving supports” for:
- Nearly all Texans with intellectual disabilities and other serious lifelong or childhood-acquired disabilities
- 55 percent of Texas babies who receive prenatal care and delivery from Medicaid and CHIP
- 2.5 million kids (3 million with CHIP)
- Hundreds of thousands of seniors and Texans with disabilities who avoid institutional care through Medicaid community supports
- More than 1,600 women every month who are undergoing treatment for breast or cervical cancer