Teenage birth rates in the state of Texas have increased by more than 3% since 2011, when the state voted to strip funding from family planning centers such as Planned Parenthood, according to a new study published online earlier this month by the Journal of Health Economics.
In the study, Analisa Packham, a professor of economics at Miami University in Ohio, analyzed the impact of a law which cut the state’s family planning budget by 67% (from $11 million every two years to $37.9 million over that period) six years ago, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The funding cuts resulted in the closure of 80 clinics (most of the Planned Parenthoods centers) and a 3.4% increase in teenage birth rates, meaning that about 2,200 teens had children that they likely would not have had if the family planning budget was left intact.
Cutting family planning services may have economic consequences, author says
“Given that the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy estimates that the average cost of teen childbearing to taxpayers is nearly $27,000 per birth, the estimated costs of the reduction in family planning funding are $81 mil,” Packham wrote in her study. “Therefore the costs of unintended pregnancy caused by the policy change outweigh the $73 million budget cuts.”
“The results of this analysis show that funding cuts to family planning services can have consequences that increase costs for the public sector,” she added. “As five new states are currently considering legislation to defund family planning, it is important for future research to determine to what extent government policies that reduce access to low-cost contraception can influence teen sexual behavior and unintended pregnancy.”
When the legislation was originally passed, then-Texas Gov. Rick Petty claimed that it would result in a decrease in abortions in the state. Packham wrote that she would “little evidence that reducing family planning funding achieved this goal,” though the Chronicle noted that 25% of family planning clinics had shut down and 18% had cut service hours by the end of 2012.
In an email interview with the Chronicle, Packham explained that reducing funding for family planning centers like Planned Parenthood “can have the unintended consequences of increasing abortion and reducing the number of women seeking preventative health care. Moreover, the funding for family planning services is cost effective. Cutting such programs… can lead to lower economic productivity, lower tax revenue and higher public expenditures down the line.”
Some experts dispute the study’s findings, however
However, it is worth noting that Dr. Michael J. New, an assistant professor in political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a Washington DC-based pro-life group, argues that Packham’s findings are misleading.
“Using regression analysis.. she argues that cuts to Texas family-planning programs increased teen birth rates by 3.4% and increased teen abortion rates by 3.1%,” he wrote in a piece for the National Review. “Based on the media coverage of this study, one would think that there was a teen-pregnancy epidemic in Texas. But the legislature cut funding to the Texas Family Planning program in 2011, and since then there have actually been large reductions in both the abortion rate and birth rate among minors in Texas.”
“Specifically, between 2011 and 2014, the number of Texas minors who gave birth fell by over 24%. During the same period, the number of abortions performed on minor girls in Texas fell by 28%,” he added. So why does Packham’s model show different outcomes? Dr. New speculated that it could be that lower-populated counties have seen high-percentage increased in either teen births or abortions that have skewed the results.
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