AUSTIN, Texas — Now that abortion is illegal in Texas, some people are wondering how the state will handle a baby boom. Texas House Member Claudia Ordaz Perez said the state is not prepared.
“Texas is by far one of the most dangerous states in the nation to have a baby,” she said. “Texas ranks dead last in maternal mortality deaths. Sadly, close to 2,000 infants die yearly in the state. We have the highest uninsured rate in the nation. Texas has not even scratched the surface of providing health care and child care support for working families.”
Elizabeth Sepper, a professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin, agreed.
“We don’t have hospitals. We don’t have doctors. And we don’t have social support for children and their families,” she said.
Sepper said the state is “dramatically unprepared” for a post-Roe baby boom. And she expects that a lack of doctors here will become a crisis.
“A large number of Texas counties don’t have a single doctor who can deliver a baby. And we haven’t been able to recruit providers into those rural areas,” Sepper said. “I suspect we’re going to start losing providers in a ‘brain drain’ to other states. Being an OBGYN in the state of Texas is going to become a job that’s not appealing…. It’s not going to be the kind of career where we’re going to be able to recruit more doctors into the state.”
Rep. Ordaz Perez said there’s a lot more Texas lawmakers could do for families in the state, but division in the Capitol makes it hard to pass legislation.
“We have the ability to do something, whether expanding Medicaid coverage, bolstering the foster care system, and we’re doing none of that,” said Rep. Ordaz Perez.
The most recent state data shows that nearly 6,000 children were waiting to be adopted in Texas as of last August.
Kyleen Wright, the President of Texans for Life, acknowledges that getting ready for a baby boom in Texas will take a lot of work, money and resources; but she’s not shying away from it.
“Everyone knows that there are going to be bumps, there’s going to be some challenges. But we’re ready to meet those challenges,” Wright said.
Helping Texas families is Wright’s way of giving back—because she knows how hard it is to be a single parent.
“I left in the middle of the night with them and had to start all over. So it was very, very challenging,” she said.
On Feb. 12, 1997, Wright became a single parent. Her four boys were 2, 3, 5, and 7 at the time she left her home. She had no family nearby–but says a small church adopted her.
“I know that eliminating my children wouldn’t have helped me. It would have been devastating. And so our approach is more holistic,” she said.
Wright plans to work with private donors and the Texas legislature to bolster resources. She says Texas needs more funding for prenatal and postpartum care, educational resources for new moms, and child care. She even mentioned expanding Medicaid.
Wright also noted that Texas’ Alternatives to Abortion program, which received $100 million in the last legislative session, is expected to run out of money before the end of the year. However, she and Rep. Ordaz Perez think it will get more funding come January, when the next session begins.
“The issue with the program that I’ve had is that we don’t know if the purpose of the program is actually working,” Rep. Ordaz Perez said. “It wasn’t until 2017 that the legislature began requiring a public report of what contractors are actually doing with that money. The process is really secretive, and state officials don’t actually track how many abortions are being prevented by the program. So I know there’s support for the program. I’m pretty sure there will be more funding toward the program.”
Texas politicians have expressed a desire to care for mothers and children now that abortion is illegal. But Rep. Ordaz Perez doesn’t have faith that Democrats and Republicans will come together next session to make changes in Texas.
“In this environment, it has become so divisive,” Rep. Ordaz Perez said. “‘Common sense’ is a [phrase] that does not exist under this dome. And it’s terrifying to know [that] we have a responsibility and obligation to be there for our constituents and to offer that support and those resources. And it’s so frustrating to be in the minority. Because you just feel this immense amount of pressure and this obligation to do something when you’re on the ground. And you see, you see it, you see the problems. And it’s terrifying, knowing that there’s going to be little to nothing done.”
Rep. Ordaz Perez said the legislature should expand Medicaid coverage, increase day care services for working parents, and cover contraception under the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP).
“We need a good government that actually focuses on kitchen-table issues that help working families,” said Rep. Ordaz Perez. “We don’t need more politicians who only care about criminalizing abortions. Every Texan values their freedom, and that is under attack right now.”
Rep. Ordaz Perez encourages Texans to use their voices by getting involved and voting.
Although Texas needs more doctors and social support services, Wright is staying positive. She says she wants to spend her retirement helping women and their babies — and this is just the beginning.
“We don’t know what the numbers are going to be,” she said. “We just know that it’s going to be more and we want to make sure that we don’t drop any of these moms or their babies.”