State lawmakers’ ongoing policy attacks on abortion services and providers hurt not just women seeking abortion care, argues a new commentary published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH). Increasingly, these attacks also negatively impact women’s access to contraceptive counseling and supplies and the ability of the nation’s family planning safety net to deliver this critical care.

Co-authors Kinsey Hasstedt and Rachel Benson Gold, both of the Guttmacher Institute, cite Texas as a prime example of this distressing trend: The state has aggressively targeted the availability of abortion in myriad ways, wreaking havoc on its network of publicly supported family planning providers in the process. This has resulted in Texas’s publicly funded family planning program serving far fewer women, and some women’s increased likelihood of having an unintended pregnancy.

“Texas is a harbinger of how escalating and harmful policy attacks on abortion providers also threaten to disrupt access to contraceptive services and other preventive sexual and reproductive health care, in particular for low-income women,” says Hasstedt, a senior public policy associate at Guttmacher. “This onslaught hurts not just women seeking abortion care but—ironically—also interferes with women’s ability to prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place.”

The AJPH editorial further details other states’ efforts to enact abortion restrictions along the same lines as those in Texas, and to follow a similarly aggressive path in undercutting any providers that offer abortion care or are affiliated with providers that do. These initiatives include cutting providers out of a range of public funding streams, including funds intended to support the provision of contraceptive services, sex education, screenings for cervical and breast cancer, and even intimate partner violence prevention. The authors also discuss efforts at the federal and state levels to deny Medicaid reimbursement to providers that offer or are affiliated with abortion care—especially Planned Parenthood health centers. 

“Those who support relentless attacks against abortion show no regard for the women facing an unwanted pregnancy and, likewise, appear unconcerned with the actual and potential damage done to other vital reproductive health programs,” says Hasstedt. “None of this bodes well for women and couples seeking to exercise their basic right to determine for themselves whether and when to have children, or for the health of our communities as a whole.”

Full commentary: “Lessons from Texas: Widespread Consequences of Assaults on Abortion Access,” by Rachel Benson Gold and Kinsey Hasstedt.