The Austin Chronicle

Worst Fears Confirmed for Women's Health

By Jordan Smith, September 2, 2011, News

The numbers are in, and the news is not good: As predicted, a host of family-planning providers have lost funding as a result of state lawmakers' draconian cuts to the budget traditionally used to provide low-income and uninsured women with access to basic reproductive health care. In Austin alone, funding has been cut for major players in women's health, including People's Community Clinic, Planned Parenthood, and El Buen Samaritano.

The Department of State Health Services began notifying contractors last week of the new funding allocations for fiscal year 2012, which began Sept. 1. The initial allocations only cover three months of funding, a move DSHS spokeswoman Carrie Williams said was designed to "allow for transition" in the program now operating with roughly $37.9 million in funding for two years, down from roughly $111 million in the last biennium.* Meanwhile, the agency is developing a new comprehensive request for proposals that will be used to determine funding for the rest of the year.

Six of the state's Planned Parenthood contractors, out of eight across the state that previously received funding – including the Downtown Austin clinic on East Seventh Street – have had their funding zeroed out in this initial allocation. "We're still trying to figure out what this means, but none of it is good," says Sarah Wheat, interim co-CEO for Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region. "It's the worst-case scenario, obviously." The reduction is likely to result in hundreds of thousands of women losing access to basic health care and family-planning services. For more on the state's decision to slash family-planning funding, see "The War on Women's Health," April 22.

*In the print edition and in a previous online version of this story, the second paragraph contained incorrect dollar amounts regarding family planning funding.

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