Majority of Texas Women Face Barriers to Reproductive Care

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Congratulations, Texas Republicans! A new report released by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project this week has found that there’s cause for you to celebrate. In 2011, you dramatically slashed funding for family planning and women’s health care programs, and now it looks like your dreams are becoming reality. According to the report, 55% of Texas women–a majority–have faced at least one barrier to accessing reproductive healthcare.

The researchers surveyed 779 women who reside in Texas to learn more about how women are able to access care in the state. They found that 18% of women have faced at least one barrier to receiving reproductive healthcare, while 37% have faced two or more barriers, for a total of 55%.

There are many kinds of barriers that are getting in the way of Texas women receiving care. The most common, faced by 38% of women, is a lack of ability to pay for care. Many women also struggle to find a provider they are comfortable with, and to get adequate time off from work or school to receive care. A significant number also face challenges having their care covered by their insurance plans. And 15% of women lack reproductive health care services in their communities, which is likely a direct result of the 2011 budget cuts that forced 76 clinics to close.

The full graph from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project report is below.

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The report also noted which population was (unsurprisingly) worst off:

“Women reporting three or more barriers to accessing regular reproductive health care services were more often young (ages 18-29), poor, less educated, unmarried, Spanish-speaking Hispanic women born and educated in Mexico, and without access to internet in their homes.”

One of the largest areas where women faced barriers was access to contraception. A third of women surveyed wished to be using more effective contraception than they currently had, but faced barriers in acquiring it. Most commonly, people could not afford more effective contraception, or their insurance would not cover it. And once again, the same populations facing barriers to health care services (poor, less educated, unmarried, Spanish-speaking Hispanic women born and educated in Mexico, and without access to internet in their homes) were also the ones who faced the largest barriers to accessing their preferred methods of contraception.

The natural reaction to data like this would be to try and improve access to reproductive care–but not in Texas. Instead, Republicans in the Legislature are attempting to institute even more barriers to come between women and their healthcare. They’ve already blocked funding for cancer screenings, and banned private insurance companies from covering abortions. And just yesterday, the Texas House passed yet another bill creating barriers to reproductive care.

Facing a midnight deadline to act, House Republicans passed a bill that significantly increases restrictions on minors trying to receive an abortion. While minors are already required to obtain parental consent or a judicial waiver to get an abortion, State Rep. Geanie Morrison’s (R-Victoria) HB 3994 radically increases the number of hoops a girl has to jump through to access reproductive care. HB 3994 makes it nearly impossible for minors who are victims of sexual abuse, minorities, those who live in rural areas, and girls who are poor to receive an abortion. It also exposes judges who grant bypass waivers to danger by revealing their names to the public.

The bill requires minors to present valid government identification if they are seeking an abortion–it has been proven time and time again that those who are least likely to have access to IDs are poor people and minorities. In addition, HB 3994 dictates that minors must be physically present in court to get a bypass (instead of via phone or video conference), and changes the requirements for CPS to assist victims of abuse.

House Democrats fought hard against the bill last night, bringing up points of order to question the bill’s requirements, and proposing amendments to lessen the bill’s harmful effects. Most of the time, the bill’s author, Geanie Morrison, refused to even answer questions about her handiwork. Among others, State Reps. Eddie Rodriguez and Rafael Anchia questioned the bill’s ID requirements, Rep. Mary González attempted to mitigate the bill’s effect on rural girls and on judges, and Rep. Donna Howard offered an amendment to protect victims of rape and incest. Sadly, the bill passed despite their best efforts to stand up to it.

Yet, while these assaults on women’s healthcare access continue to pass, they are not accompanied by any meaningful effort to provide women with, say, economic or educational support in order to care for themselves and their children. Thus, it seems like Texas will continue to become an even worse place for women for the foreseeable future. As long as women’s health is under attack, barriers will keep rising, and Republicans will keep celebrating.

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About Author

Katie Singh

Katie grew up in Austin and has been involved in Texas politics since 2004. She has been a part of several campaigns, from state house races to working at President Obama's campaign headquarters in 2012. She loves public policy, public health, and tacos. Katie tweets from @kasingh19.

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