AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- A decrease in contraceptive services and in increase in Medicaid-paid childbirths has been seen in Texas since the state defunded Planned Parenthood three years ago, according to a new study.
The Texas State Legislature voted in 2012 to change the way women's health care providers are funded in order to cut off Planned Parenthood because the organization offers abortion services. A study of health records by the University of Texas at Austin found the defunding led to less availability of contraceptives, and may have contributed to the increase in childbirths among low-income women.
While researchers said the study does not necessarily prove the policy change caused the increase in pregnancy and childbirth, an association is not far-fetched. Legislators have said they are aware of the decrease in availability of some women's services, but that solutions for making them more available were still being worked out.
"Providers who are mission-driven and have the requisite experience and knowledge are critical in providing the most effective methods of contraception -- IUDs, implants and injectables," said Joseph Potter, director of the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas at Austin, in a press release. "From a demographic perspective, this is important because these methods dramatically decrease unintended pregnancy."
For the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers analyzed Medicaid claims records from 2011 to 2014, covering two years before and two years after the state's Women's Health Program went into effect.
Researchers found 35 percent fewer claims were made for long-acting, reversible contraceptives such as implants and IUDs, and 31 percent fewer claims were made for longer-lasting injectible contraceptives.
During the two years after the funding was removed, the data showed a 27 percent increase in the number of births billed to Medicaid among women who received injectible contraceptives.
"These birth control methods are among the most effective ways of preventing unplanned pregnancy," Dr. Hal Lawrence, executive vice president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Los Angeles Times, and fewer facilities made birth control "inaccessible for many low-income women, inevitably driving up rates of unintended pregnancies with all their attendant costs and concerns."
Planned Parenthood served about 60 percent of low-income women in Texas before funding was removed, services which legislators at the time said were the target, though some now acknowledge less availability of any family planning or contraceptive services is not ideal.
"As Planned Parenthood has been going through their spiral here, we have been bolstering what Texas can offer through this other network," Texas State Senator Jim Keffer, a Republican who worked on the defunding measures, told ABC News about the state's women's health program. "You can't just close it off and wipe your hands of the situation because comprehensive women's health care has to still be provided."