National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Study: Spike in pregnancy-related deaths in Texas coincides with cuts to family planning in state budget

Texas' maternal mortality rate spiked unexpectedly in 2011, the same year the state significantly cut funding for Planned Parenthood and other women's health programs, according to a study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Huffington Post reports (Bassett, Huffington Post, 8/19).

Background

The state Legislature in 2011 cut the state's family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women's health clinics. As a result of the cuts, 82 of Texas' family planning clinics closed, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP). Of those clinics, about one-third were Planned Parenthood affiliates (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/4).

Following the cuts, Texas' program for women's health could serve only half the number of women for whom it had previously provided health care services.

Cuts coincide with jump in pregnancy-related deaths

According to the study, maternal mortality increased slightly between 2000 and 2010 and almost doubled between 2011 and 2012. Specifically, the researchers found that the number of Texas women who died from pregnancy- or birth-related complications increased from 72 women in 2010 to 148 women in 2012.

The researchers noted that the increase coincided with the 2011 funding cuts, but they did not directly link the two events.

Moreover, according to the researchers, the budget cuts alone could not account for the substantial increase. "In the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a two-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely," the researchers stated.

Calling the increase "puzzling," the researchers wrote that it was out of line with trends in the maternal mortality rate in other states.

According to the Huffington Post, the Texas Department of Health has launched a task force to investigate the matter. Carrie Williams, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said, "We're aware of the numbers and want to see a decrease in this trend ... and that's why the task force is closely reviewing these cases and will make recommendations" (Huffington Post, 8/19).