Texas senators refute misleading study on Planned Parenthood defunding

Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a misleading study entitled “Effect of Removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program.”  The study purports to demonstrate a negative public health effect from the Texas Legislature’s decision in 2011 to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state healthcare program.  In the period examined, 2011-2014, the authors of the studies cite that Medicaid claims for certain forms of contraception decreased, while in the same period some Texas counties had a slight increase in the rate of childbirths covered by Medicaid.  The results of this study have been interpreted by liberal media pundits as proof positive that Texas has failed low-income women.  Vox author Sarah Kliff, for example, argues that due to the removal of Planned Parenthood from state health programs, “fewer women filled birth control prescriptions—and more low-income women had babies.”

The Texas Senate GOP Caucus released a statement refuting the study.  In their press release the senators write, “The published study was funded in part by the Susan T. Buffett Foundation, a major supporter of Planned Parenthood.”  Other abortion organizations also funded the research, which was authored by a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and two researchers with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.  In their statement, the Senate GOP Caucus notes that the study only considers data from 2011 through 2014, which “does not reflect the reality that the number of Women’s health clinics in Texas has doubled since 2014, actually tripling from 2011 through 2015.”  Senator Charles Schwertner summarized the developments of the 2015 legislative session by stating, “The Texas Legislature is funding women's health services at record levels and working with a larger network of providers than ever before.” 

In their concluding statement, the Texas Senate GOP Caucus denounces the study, which “contained obvious omissions and half-truths.”  Indeed, upon closer examination, the data appears selectively chosen.  The increased rate of childbirth funded by Medicaid was observed only among women using injectable contraception through one state-funded program, the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP), and the study only considered Texas women who live in a county with a Planned Parenthood affiliate.  Senator Jane Nelson, the Senate Finance Chair, stated that several health programs funded by the state of Texas were not even considered by the authors of the study. 

Further, Michael New, writing for National Review, notes that the study fails to consider trends in abortion rates or rates of unintended pregnancy, thus undermining the key premise of their purported findings.  In the same period of the study, 2011-2014, there was a decline in the rate of abortion across the state of Texas, which might indicate an expected increase in the number of Medicaid-funded births. 

Texas Right to Life applauds the work of the Texas Senate GOP Caucus in the past several legislative sessions to ensure that providing for women’s healthcare is a budgetary priority, while also recognizing that Pro-Life Texans do not want their fungible tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion business in the nation.  Redirecting funding to federally qualified health centers, community health clinics, and other non-Planned Parenthood clinics has led to an increased number of healthcare options for women across the state.  A complete list of providers can be found at https://www.healthytexaswomen.org/.