Texas Two-Step: Religious Right Anti-Family Planning Agenda Backfires In The Lone Star State

The Texas Tribune reported that funding cuts for contraception and health-care services are likely to lead to 24,000 unintended births in 2014-2015, at a cost to taxpayers of $273 million.

A funny thing happens when state lawmakers advance the Religious Right’s agenda: It can end up costing that state a ton of money. Big bills are a problem for even the staunchest allies of the Religious Right, and that has led to a change of heart in Texas when it comes to funding family planning services.

In January, a law went into effect that prohibits state support for pro-choice health organizations, an effort aimed at Planned Parenthood, a frequent Religious Right target.

CBS News reported that critics have said there aren’t nearly enough doctors and clinics around the state to treat all the displaced Planned Parenthood patients, but Gov. Rick Perry (R) nonetheless defended his actions.

“We’ve got providers that are out there that we trust are not going to be involved in the delivery of abortion services,” Perry said.  

Now, it seems there is conclusive evidence to show that Gov. Perry’s faith-driven decisions would cost the state millions of dollars. The Texas Tribune reported that funding cuts for contraception and health-care services are likely to lead to 24,000 unintended births in 2014-2015, at a cost to taxpayers of $273 million.

Yikes. That’s a lot of diapers.

The reality of the situation has sunk in with lawmakers, and Senate Republicans have recently proposed setting aside $100 million to fund the Community Primary Care Services Program, which contracts with local health clinics and nonprofit groups to provide health services for low-income Texans who don’t qualify for other state programs, said the Tribune.

The Tribune added that the additional money could more than triple the number of patients served yearly by the program to 234,000, according to the Department of State Health Services.

It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s at least an improvement and is politically realistic in a place like Texas.

Still, this is just another example of why religious beliefs shouldn’t influence policy making. Lawmakers completely ignored the unintended consequences that come from defunding Planned Parenthood, and I doubt they cared until they saw the consequence of that action in the form of a $273 million bill.   

The real shame is that Texas legislators put Religious Right concerns ahead of the needs of low-income families. They’re pulling back now because it’s costing the state money. I wish they had purer motives.  

The situation in Texas is an important cautionary tale about the dangers of letting the Religious Right drive the public policy bus. Chances are, they’ll go right over a cliff.

Take notice, other states.