Last week, the House Appropriations Committee proposed their 2016 spending budget for Labor, Health, and Human Services which included the elimination of all funding for Title X. Title X is considered the “family planning program” because it is the only federally funded grant program which provides individuals with family planning and other preventative health services. These services include contraceptive care, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment of STIs, all services that are absolutely necessary for women to lead healthy and worry-free lives. Additionally, the budget would cut funding for sex education by 90% while doubling funding for abstinence-only programs, despite overwhelming evidence that abstinence-only education is ineffective.
The Senate then proposed their own budget, which doesn’t completely eliminate Title X but does cut funding for it by 10%, or about $28.7 million. Additionally, they propose cutting funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative by 80%, the equivalent of $81 million.
The main target of this funding cut is Planned Parenthood, which is Title X’s biggest beneficiary. The central criticism of Planned Parenthood is that it provides abortion services, and so opponents often call for it to be defunded completely. The truth is that only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions. Planned Parenthood is actually responsible for decreasing the amount of unintended pregnancies and abortions. They estimate that annually over 500,000 unintended pregnancies and over 200,000 abortions are averted due to Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive care. Additionally, because of the Hyde Amendment, federal funds cannot be used for the small amount of abortion services Planned Parenthood does provide. Yet these figures haven’t stopped critics from utilizing every method to cut their funding.
The elimination Title X funding simply does not make fiscal sense. A 2014 study estimated that for every $1 that was spent on contraceptive services, about $7 was saved that would otherwise be spent on pregnancy related Medicaid costs. Factor in the money saved from prevention of STIs, early detection of STIs and cancers, and quality sex education, and the savings increase.
Perhaps more damaging than the financial aspect is the fact that cutting Title X funding will also result in millions of women, a large majority of whom are low income, being denied essential health care services. Planned Parenthood estimates that in 2013, health care centers were able to provide one million pap smear tests, 1.6 million women with breast exams, 6.8 million STI tests through Title X funding. The grand total of Planned Parenthood patients who benefit each year from Title X funding comes out to 1.5 million. All of these patients will have to find other, probably more expensive and less convenient, means of receiving these vital health care services.
Those who would be hurt the most by this budget plan are low-income women. Planned Parenthood’s clientele is largely women who fall around or below the poverty line. This can be attributed to a variety of factors including the average age of patients, lack of quality and affordable health insurance, and lack of access to proper sex education. Planned Parenthood estimates that of the 1.5 million patients who benefit from family planning funding each year, 75% live at or below 150% of the federal poverty line.
There is little reason behind a budget cut that not only is fiscally illogical but also hurts a demographic that needs help the most. This is just the newest effort to deny low-income Americans quality and affordable health care. Critics continually deny the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of Planned Parenthood and similar organizations simply because of one service that they provide on a small scale and without federal funding. Women’s health care is far too important to be subverted in order to serve some political agenda.
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