The Senate is currently reviewing the Pence Amendment that will decrease funding to Title X and the family planning clinics it supports across the U.S. Already passed by the House in February, this slash in funding to an already poorly supported program could make it impossible for some low-income women to access reproductive health services and family planning counseling, resulting in higher instances of cancer and unwanted childbirths.
Measures are also called for in Pence to ban Planned Parenthood from all government funding. Currently one of the biggest recipients of Title X funding is Planned Parenthood, a nationwide provider of reproductive health services, family planning, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, and counseling to low-income individuals. Title X provides the government funding to support these vital services, which resulted in the early detection of as many as 55,000 cases of invasive cervical cancer alone from 1980-1999.
Planned Parenthood responded with a statement calling the amendment “radically out of step with mainstream American values” and called on the Senate to restore their subsidies.
Why is a service that provides valuable health services to people who couldn’t otherwise access them being attacked?
Planned Parenthood also performs abortions. As per the Hyde Amendment of Title X, clinics are prohibited from using federal funding to support abortions. The financial records of Planned Parenthood are annually audited to ensure government funds are not being used for abortions. So it begs the question, how are Republican proponents of this bill finding a way to tie abortion into funding that is not connected to it?
U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan said, “I voted in favor…because it reflects the deep concern of many citizens…that taxpayer money not be used to support an organization that supports abortion.”
What are Meehan and other supporters of the Title X budget cuts essentially saying?
If we can’t have what we want, you can’t have what you need.
Anti-abortionists are so intent on controlling women’s right to abortion, they are willing to endanger the lives of all women who rely on Planned Parenthood’s preventative health services.
The Bill Could Cost Us More in the Long Run
There is a sense of irony when proponents say they support the budget cuts strictly from a financial perspective. Some advocates of the bill say issues in the economy in recent years have forced unwanted budget cuts on many industries, and reproductive health care for the poor shouldn’t be exempt. However, they fail to measure the cost to society of advanced and undetected cervical and breast cancer, untested and untreated STIs including HIV, and children resulting from unwanted pregnancies, especially in low-income families who may already be dependent on welfare programs. All of these issues will add expenses to state and other local healthcare providers, and when low-income people can’t afford them, public assistance has to make up the difference.
Title X Funding Already Low
Despite evidence showing the efficiency of the Title X program, political opposition has lead to depressed funding over the years. Taking into account inflation, Title X’s funding level in 1999 was 60% lower in comparison to what it it had been 20 years before.
Family planning has come along way in the Pill’s fifty-year history. In 1960, the Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill. Within five years, it was the leading method of reversible contraception utilized in the United States.
However, low-income women and families often couldn’t obtain the pill. This inaccessibility embedded low-income families in a dangerous cycle, where poverty hindered access to contraception, resulting in unwanted childbearing, which further increased poverty and reliance on public assistance.
The first response to this problem from the government came in the form of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. In 1965, his Office of Economic Opportunity started offering grants for family planning services. Additionally, in the late 1960s, the Social Security Act began requiring state welfare agencies to make family planning services and information available to recipients.
In 1969, nearly a decade after the Pill became available, President Richard Nixon pleaded with Congress, “It is my view that no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.” Congress responded by enacting Title X (ten) of the Public Health Service Act. This was the first and remains today the only federal program devoted to providing family planning services nationwide.
What Title X Does for America
In 2005, a government review was conducted by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which confirmed that Title X serves a unique and valuable purpose, is cost-effective and is effectively managed. That may be considered somewhat uncommon for a government-run program. In twenty years, services provided at health centers funded by Title X
- Prevented 20 million unintended pregnancies and nine million abortions
- Helped prevent 5.5 million adolescent pregnancies
- Provided an estimated 54.4 million breast exams and 57.3 million PAP tests, resulting in the early detection of as many as 55,000 cases of invasive cervical cancer
Title X is the principal source of funding for family planning clinics in the United States. For young individuals and low-income families, Title X provides
- Comprehensive, culturally competent counseling and services
- Reproductive healthcare services including pelvic and breast exams
- Breast and cervical cancer screening
- HIV testing
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI) information, testing and treatment
- Screening for high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Pregnancy testing and counseling
- Healthy body weight screening and counseling
If you’re interested in further information on Title X, including more data on whom it helps and the percentage of services being utilized, visit this site.
Future of Title X
The bill must still be passed by the Senate and signed into effect by President Obama before funding can be cut. Republicans and democrats are still squabbling in the Senate over the bill and, in the meantime all supporters of preventative reproductive healthcare can do is wait and hope.