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Abortion Debate Leads To Women's Health Funding Questions

AUSTIN (CBS 11 NEWS) - With the Republican-led Texas legislature expected to pass new restrictions on abortions, Democrats believe the measure will be challenged in court.

State Representative Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) said, "This fight is not over. They may have won on the House floor, they may win on the Senate floor, but they'll have to answer to the Constitution of this land."

State Representative Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) disagreed. "This has been well thought out, a lot of lawyers have looked at this," he said. "We're confident this is Constitutional, and it's the right thing to do."

Part of the very emotional debate at the Capitol centered on whether the state has been spending enough money to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions in the first place.

During the state budget crisis two years ago, Texas slashed spending on the Women's Health program. "An additional $68 million was cut from the appropriations bills for women who were receiving services from the Department of State Health Services who did not qualify for Medicaid, and that was close to 300,000 women," Representative Dukes said.

Researchers are studying what impact those cuts had.

Amanda Stevenson is a a researcher with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. "We're seeing fewer women accessing subsidized family planning services and they're accessing services less effective than they would have been accessing," she said. "By observing that, we can hypothesize there will be higher levels of unintended pregnancy.  We've not yet been able to see that."

Republican lawmakers say during the regular session, they passed $100 million in new money for the next two years for women's health, to make up for the cuts.

Representative Hughes asserted, "That's going to make sure the centers are there.  The women's health program recruited hundreds of new providers to make sure there's access for women's health early in the session."

It's an issue both parties say they're watching closely.

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