Massive budget cuts to Texas’s health care system are finally starting to show as a study by the University of Maryland reveals that their maternal mortality rate has increased drastically within the past decade. Still, Texas lawmakers have yet to make any major strives towards fixing this issue.
Texas boasts the highest maternal mortality rate, not only in the United States, but in the entirety of the developed world. Between 2000 and 2010, that number hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 deaths per every 100,000 births. After 2010, it escalated to 33 per every 100,000, and by 2014 it was at 35.8. In comparison, the US average in 2014 was 23.8. Though the country as a whole has suffered a 27% increase since 2010, where there were only 18.8 deaths for every 100,000 births. Estonia and Greece are among the highest ranked countries, with 2 and 3 deaths per year, respectively. Almost 50 more countries fall before the US in this lineup.
In 2011, Texas’s state legislature cut $73.6 million from the state’s family planning budget. This forced 80+ facilities to permanently close their doors, and the remaining offices could only provide services - including cancer screenings, birth control, and routine exams - to about half as many women as before. The state also chose to eliminate all Planned Parenthood clinics, which had previously offered contraceptives and health screenings to upwards of 130,000 women. In addition, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission chose to allocate $1.6 million, from a program designed to help low income women to receive family planning services, to The Heidi Group, an anti-abortion women’s health facility.
Marsha Jones, of Afiya Center - an organization founded by and for black women to address harmful reproductive health and abortion policies - told The Washington Post, "When you do things like making access to abortions almost impossible, the impact that's going to have on our state's most vulnerable population is worse and worse." Black women in Texas make up approximately 11% of the births and 28% of the deaths.
There were several bills proposed to try to fix these issues, but lawmakers were easily swayed by the Tea Party’s influence and used House procedural maneuvers to kill all of the bills on the legislative calendar. With Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick trying to force a special session over the “bathroom bill” and a property tax reform bill, the proposed health care bills have been overlooked and pushed to the backburner of political progress.
“I’m disappointed we couldn’t tackle this issue in a much more thoughtful way. We debated bathrooms all night. There are women dying,” Representative Armando Walle told the Texas Observer.
Texas State Representative Shawn Thierry proposed a bill, but like the others, it failed to make it through the legislative process. Another one of the aforementioned bills was proposed by Representative Garnet Coleman, and planned to provide mothers with screenings and treatment for postpartum depression. Since this plan would have cost an estimated $76 Million, it did not make it past the House floor. There is a proposal currently awaiting action from Governor Greg Abbott. This plan, like the plan submitted by Rep. Coleman is set to cover the screening of postpartum mothers, but not their actual treatment.
“Women’s health once again got caught in the political crossfire,” Thierry told the Texas Observer.
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