States slash birth control subsidies as federal debate rages

Mon Mar 5, 2012 10:31am EST
 
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By Stephanie Simon

(Reuters) - Even as a national debate rages over contraception insurance, tens of thousands of low-income women and teenagers across the United States have lost access to subsidized birth control as states slash and restructure family planning funds.

Montana and New Jersey have eliminated altogether their state family planning programs. New Hampshire cut its funding by 57 percent and five other states made more modest program trims.

But the biggest impact, by far, has been in Texas.

State lawmakers last fall cut family-planning funds by two-thirds, or nearly $74 million over two years. Within months, half the state-supported family planning clinics in Texas had closed.

The state network, which once provided 220,000 women a year free and low-cost birth control, cervical cancer tests and diabetes screenings, will now serve just 40,000 to 60,000, officials said.

Another 130,000 low-income Texas women who get free exams and contraceptives through Medicaid could lose those benefits by month's end, due to a dispute between the state and federal governments over whether Planned Parenthood should be allowed to serve women on that program.

At the People's Community Clinic in Austin, the cuts mean that many low-income patients, except the very poorest, are now charged for contraception that used to be free: $5 for a dozen condoms; $10 for a month of birth control pills; $225 for an IUD.

"I have no clue what I'm going to do," said Rhetta Pope, 22, of Austin. A stay-at-home mother of two, she lives off disability payments of less than $1,500 a month.   Continued...