Population Research Center Awarded Texas Reproductive Health Policy Evaluation Grant
Posted: November 28, 2011
A team of researchers at the Population Research Center, led by Professor of Sociology and PRC Faculty Research Associate Joseph Potter, has been awarded a three year, $1.9 million grant to study the impact of legislation affecting reproductive health enacted during the 2011 Texas Legislative Session.
The legislation the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (Tx-PEP) will focus on is expected to have dramatic effects on women’s health throughout the state, particularly the health of low-income and ethnic minority women. Provisions in the state budget bill cut family planning funding by two-thirds (from approx. $50 million to $15 million per annum), eliminating most of Titles V and XX––the two programs most low income women in the state relied upon for contraceptive services. In addition, criteria for the allocation of the remaining funds were restructured on the basis of comprehensive primary care provision. As a consequence, many clinics serving high numbers of women, but providing only family planning services, were relegated to the lowest funding tier.
A second safety net for low-income women, the Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP), is also in jeopardy. A bill that would renew the 90% federally funded Medicaid waiver program could not be agreed upon, but a last-minute budget rider directed a request for federal reauthorization of the program. An insistence that all providers affiliated with abortion services be excluded from the WHP, however, poses a serious threat to federal approval.
In addition to family planning cuts, changes were also made in access to abortion services. HB 15, commonly known as “the sonogram bill,” instituted the performance of a mandatory sonogram, and provision of required information relating to abortion, at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure. Implementation of these requirements necessitates two appointments with the same physician, with at least a 24 hour waiting period in between. The full extent of the bill, including the provisions mandating description of the sonogram and making the fetal heart audible, have not yet gone into effect due to a temporary injunction, pending the conclusion of a legal challenge to the law.
Over the course of the next three years, Tx-PEP will study the effects of these key pieces of legislation on women and providers in Texas. Researchers will interview women about their experiences seeking contraceptive services and reproductive health care, collect data on contraception provided in the postpartum period––tracking how this affects longer-term reproductive outcomes––and analyze state data on unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. Data on Medicaid births will aid an analysis of the economic impacts on the state. Interviews with family planning clinic directors will shed light upon clinic closures, staff losses, and the range of contraceptive methods providers are able to offer on reduced funding.
The project team involves a core group from the PRC including Research Assistant Professor and PRC Faculty Research Associate Kristine Hopkins, and doctoral students Abigail Aiken, Celia Hubert, Megan Moeller, and Amanda Stevenson. In addition, the project will involve researchers at Ibis Reproductive Health, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, UT-El Paso, as well as a number of consultants. Fieldwork is expected to be underway by January 2012. The findings of the study will shed light on how recent legislative decisions have affected women’s reproductive health in Texas.