Public health disaster: Proposed budget cuts to family planning services

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The PillThis week, Senate Republicans released a budget proposal that would significantly cut funding for Title X (the federal family planning program) and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program. This comes just a week after the House of Representatives proposed eliminating Title X altogether.

Title X is the only low-income family planning program in the US, and subsidizes 4,100 health clinics nationwide that provide services to individuals earning less than $25,000 per year. Some patients have no other contact with the health care system except through Title X.

The proposed spending bill would cut Title X by 10 percent, or $28.7 million, and would cut TPP by 80 percent, or $81 million.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said that while politicians say they are trying to fix the budget, [t]he irony is that family planning is good for the American economy. ... Access to birth control and family planning is one of the biggest drivers of women's economic gains, leading to more education and higher wages.

Additionally, according to Healthy People 2020, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, publicly funded family planning services prevent 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, including 400,000 teen pregnancies each year. And according to a 2013 report by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health nonprofit, annual public costs of births from unintended pregnancy are estimated to have been around $25 billion in the absence of the publicly funded family planning effort. The Guttmacher Institute also estimates that every $1 spent on public family planning services saves about $7 in related costs of births, and STI and cancer treatment.

Many conservatives oppose Title X because some of its funds go to clinics that also perform abortions, although federal law does not allow Title X to directly pay for any abortion services.

The proposed budget that cuts Title X funding is a welcome reform to those who do not want their tax dollars going toward killing preborn children and underwriting the abortion industry," said Lila Rose, president of the anti-abortion group Live Action.

However, supporters of the program argue that cutting funding to the program is counterproductive for anti-abortion goals, because contraceptive and family planning services offered by Title X reduces the demand for abortion.

Along with preventing unwanted pregnancy, oral contraceptives reduce rates of pelvic inflammatory disease, cancers of the ovary and endometrium, recurrent ovarian cysts, benign breast cysts and fibroadenomas, and discomfort from menstrual cramps. Additionally, family planning centers offer a variety of public health services to their clients, including HPV vaccinations, Pap tests and STI testing, as well as screenings for additional health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

According to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Democrats summary of the new budget proposal, a 10 percent cut to Title X would deny 430,000 people access to family planning and preventive health services, as well as increasing the number of unplanned pregnancies by more than 82,000 per year many of which would likely end in abortion.

Since 2010, funding for Title X has already been slashed by nearly $40 million. According to the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, these past cuts have lead to nearly 700,000 patients no longer having access to the program s myriad public health services.