Ounce of Prevention, $467 Million of Cure

House State Affairs Committee approves measure that would increase education regarding family-planning programs and sexually transmitted disease prevention.

The House State Affairs Committee on April 25 approved a measure that would increase education regarding family-planning programs and sexually transmitted disease prevention. Under House Bill 1842, by Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, the Health and Human Services Commission would be asked to undertake a "comprehensive marketing and outreach" program, designed to help prevent unintended pregnancies and to reduce the rates of STD infection. The educational outreach program would be designed to increase awareness of and participation in the state's Women's Health Program, a five-year Medicaid-waiver program that provides preventative health and family-planning services – like annual gynecological exams and screenings for cancer and diabetes – to low-income women.

Strama says the program is a proactive way to reduce unintended pregnancies and the incidence of abortion through comprehensive family planning – over five years the WHP should create $467 million in savings, including $278 million in state funds, otherwise spent on reactive medical care, in part a consequence of unplanned pregnancies.

Refreshingly, the bill received bipartisan support of the State Affairs Committee, which more often that not seems to focus more on ideological opposition to abortion than on any real policies aimed at reducing the incidence of abortion. Reps. David Swinford, R-Dumas, the committee chair; Corbin Van Arsdale, R-Harris; and Byron Cook, R-Corsicana; joined family-planning stalwarts Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, and Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in voting for the measure. Notably, Republican Reps. Ken Paxton, Wayne Christian, Dan Flynn, and Tan Parker, available to voice their opinions on, say, a bill that would ban, outright, all abortion, were absent when the bill came up for a vote.

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