The factors underlying the 82nd Texas legislature’s decision to restrict access to family planning in Texas
Awarded 2012
Trainee Grants
Abigail Aiken, MD, MPH
University of Texas at Austin

In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature enacted four key pieces of legislation restricting access to family planning: the state budget for contraceptive and reproductive health screening provision was cut by two-thirds; a tiered funding system directing funds away from the clinics providing the majority of services was set up; the Women’s Health Program Medicaid waiver was not renewed; and a mandatory sonogram and 24-hour waiting period were instituted as requirements for access to abortion services. These laws are expected to have severe consequences for the health of women (particularly low-income women) throughout the state. The aim of this study is to understand why Texas legislators voted as they did on bills relating to family planning. A Bayesian factor analysis approach will be employed to study patterns of voting behavior on family planning issues over the past twenty years of legislative sessions in Texas, and identify underlying explanatory factors. Results are expected to provide an understanding of contemporary bipolar partisanship in its historical context; illuminate alternative contributing explanations, such as constituency pressures, or relationships with interest groups; and aid prediction of what the trajectory of political attitudes to family planning might be. As the first state to pass such severe legislation, Texas provides an excellent opportunity to gain insight into how similar laws might appear in other states, and at the national level. Without an understanding of the factors that underlie the increasing enactment of laws restricting access to family planning, we cannot hope to reverse the trend.