Mainstream Media Mislead on Public Health in Texas

Michael New | August 31, 2017 | 4:20pm EDT
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Scenes from the Walk for Choice Dallas 2011 counter-presence event organized by Pro-Life Texas. The motto of the pro-choice march was "We Have a Voice, We Have a Choice". Through peaceful but firm witness, Pro-Life Texas sought to remind demonstrators and the general public of the life that is within a mother's womb. (Flickr Photo/Toby Marks-Labeled for Reuse)

After Texas defunded Planned Parenthood in 2011, The Heidi Group, led by long time pro-life activist Carol Everett, planned to establish a network of pro-life medical clinics in the Lone Star State.  However, last week, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced substantial funding cuts to the Heidi Group – citing a failure to serve as many patients as anticipated. Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media, eager to report on bad public health news from Texas, pounced on the announcement.  This story was first covered by Politico and subsequently reported on by a number of other outlets including The Texas Tribune, Yahoo! News, Newsweek, and the Associated Press

It is disappointing that Carol Everett's idea to organize a network of pro-life medical facilities failed to go as planned.  However, by focusing on Everett’s program and relying on dated statistics, the media coverage, particularly the Politico article, paints a misleading picture about the state of public health in Texas.  In particular, the Politico story argued that the defunding of Planned Parenthood has resulted in fewer Texas women accessing contraceptives though various state programs.  However, more women are using Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) which require fewer physician visits.  Additionally, since the Affordable Care Act requires companies to cover dependents under the age of 26, young women are more likely to obtain contraceptive coverage through their parents’ insurance plans.

The reporting also indicates that there has been a reduction in the number of Texas women obtaining health care through Texas Women’s Health Program and Healthy Texas Women – two state programs which replaced the state Medicaid program.  However, the media coverage has only reported client data for between 2011 and 2016. In 2017, the Texas legislature allocated additional funding to advertise the services offered by Healthy Texas Women. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, between July 2016 and March 2017 enrollment in Healthy Texas Women skyrocketed from 93,020 to 169,361 — an 82 percent increase. In fact, enrollment in Healthy Texas Women is currently at an all-time high.

Overall, Texas has clearly shown that positive public health outcomes are possible without taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. Since Texas defunded Planned Parenthood in 2011, many public health trends are positive.  Since 2011, the number of minors giving birth has decreased by 20 percent. Abortions performed on minors have fallen by over 40 percent. Furthermore, there is no evidence of an increase in the unintended pregnancy rate. Sadly, these positive public health statistics in the Lone Star State have received scant attention from the mainstream media. 

Michael J. New is an Associate Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.


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