The Texas Baby Boom

The Texas House recently voted to slash $61 million out of the state’s family-planning budget, which would leave just $37 million over the next two years to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The consequences should be obvious, but state lawmakers needn’t go beyond their own borders to see the results of underfunded family-planning and sex-education programs. As Gail Collins writes in The New York Times today:

  • Terrible sex education programs and a lack of access to contraceptives leads to a huge number of births to poor women. (About 60 percent of the deliveries in Texas are financed by Medicaid.) Texas also leads the nation in the number of teenage mothers with two or more offspring.
  • The Texas baby boom — an 800,000 increase in schoolchildren over the last decade — marches off to underfunded schools. Which are getting more underfunded by the minute...

As it stands now, 200 teenage girls in Texas become pregnant every day. According to the Brookings Institution, the proposed cut to the budget (the Texas Senate could restore the funds) would prevent 28,000 unwanted pregnancies and 13,000 births. Though an unwanted pregnancy is tough enough in itself, studies show that out-of-wedlock births correlate with lower family income and educational attainment -- for the mothers and their children. The rise of children born to poor mothers in Texas means a rise in Medicaid costs, school funding, and all sorts of other programs from Head Start to food stamps as well.

This is what policy folks are talking about when they argue that every dollar spent on family planning is actually a savings to the taxpayer: In Texas, putting the $61 million back in the budget would reap $250 million in taxpayer savings. But conservative lawmakers would rather charge taxpayers an enormous amount of money for bad family planning in the hope that it will hurt the “abortion industry.” It never occurs to them that funding contraception reduces not only abortion rates but also state expenditures.

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