In 2011, the Texas State Legislature voted to cut funding for family planning clinics by 66 percent statewide. Following the budget cuts, 82 family planning clinics were forced to close. Then, in January 2013, Texas eliminated Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid program. At the time, many public health officials raised concerns that the budget cuts would have an adverse effect on the health of women in Texas, particularly those in low income brackets. Now, five years after the first round of budget cuts, a study published in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology seems to confirm these fears.
Between 2000 and 2010, the authors of the study found that Texas experienced a “modest increase” in maternal mortality.
Between 2011 and 2012, however, pregnancy-related mortality rates in the Lone Star State nearly doubled. Whereas 72 women in Texas died from pregnancy-related complications in 2010, 148 died from the same types of complications in 2012. The research team that conducted the study described this sudden and dramatic increase as “puzzling,” and noted that similar trends were not seen in data from the other 49 states.
While the researchers who conducted the study acknowledge that the funding cuts in 2011 and 2013 are at least partially responsible for the increase in mortality rates, they note that the figures are too extreme to be explained by budget cuts alone.
“In the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely,” write the researchers in their commentary.
Since the report was published, the Texas Department of Health has formed a task force to investigate the root cause of the issue. Thus far, they have failed to identify a cause or offer recommendations to remedy the problem.