Since Roe v. Wade was overturned and elective abortion was prohibited in Texas, abortions in our state dropped from around 4,500 abortions each month to now just a few medically-necessary procedures to save the life of the mother. However, this does not mean the need for pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies has decreased. Rather, women continue seeking alternatives, particularly through the Alternatives to Abortion program.
Texas’ Alternatives to Abortion program (A2A) is currently the largest and most successful state-funded program in the nation that helps women choose Life. The program, which was established in 2005, reimburses nonprofit pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, and maternity homes for critical social services they provide to pregnant women and families before and after birth.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe and Texas outlawed abortion, these providers have seen a 43% increase in demand for services. Women are coming to these providers earlier and more frequently. This increased and unanticipated demand meant that A2A providers were running out of funding in May 2023. This demand is not going anywhere anytime soon.
For these reasons, Texas Right to Life prioritized protecting and increasing the A2A program funding to $200 million for the next two years (since the Texas Legislature only meets every other year, the budget is biennial). We also advocated for the Legislature providing $25 million to cover the shortfall these Pro-Life providers will face in the coming summer months due to the unforeseen demand and before the next budget begins in September 2023.
While the initial budget proposals only appropriated $140 million for the biennium and allotted no funds for the summer shortfall, the Texas House of Representatives recognized this need and approved full funding to A2A at $200 million for the next two years with the passage of an amendment Representative Cody Vaust (R – Angleton). The $25 million in the supplemental budget was also added by the House thanks to an amendment by Representative Jeff Leach (R – Allen).
However, in the final days of session, lawmakers reduced that amount, landing at $165 million and failing to meet the demand and projected growth of the Alternatives to Abortion program. As a result, countless pregnant women may not receive the life-saving help they need and may instead feel pressured into seeking illegal or out-of-state abortions.
At the same time, legislation was approved that could be used to water down the program’s unique Pro-Life mission. Lawmakers failed to sufficiently amend Senate Bill 24 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R – Brenham), sponsored by Representative James Frank (R – Wichita Falls) to ensure that non-Pro-Life organizations do not divert Alternatives to Abortion funding. This legislation also renamed the Alternatives to Abortion program to the Thriving Texas Families Program, which will take effect on September 1, 2023.
Although SB 24 was well-intentioned, Texas Right to Life is concerned that this bill allows the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to pivot the previously earmarked funding to services that do not directly benefit pregnant moms and new families. Thus, Pro-Life nonprofits could receive less funding next year because the program’s resources would be spread more thinly among unrelated organizations.
To help prevent these concerns from coming true, Texas Right to Life will continue to closely monitor the program and recruit legislators to ensure state agencies correctly implement this well-intentioned policy.
Texas legislators neglected preborn children in this first legislative session post-Roe, and this is one example of that. In this post-Roe Texas, providers in the A2A program will remain crucial to building a truly Pro-Life state and highlighting how we are not just anti-abortion but Pro-Life and pro-woman. Underfunding and potentially diluting this successful Life-affirming program is a missed opportunity by the Texas Legislature.