Every campaign season we hear politicians tell tales of outrageous government waste—The “bridge to nowhere” or some obscure but expensive NASA project. It seems ones thing all politicians claim to agree on is getting rid of wasteful spending. So if I told you there was a government program that actually saved the government $3.4 billion in 2008, you’d probably think this was a program that politicians would support. Especially if I told you it was a program that provided millions of men and women with important primary and preventive health care services such as cancer screenings and STI testing. No politician can argue with that, right?
Leaders in congress have proposed drastic cuts to family planning funding, including totally eliminating the incredibly successful Title X program. Title X is the only source of federal funding exclusively devoted to family planning and reproductive health care. In 2008, over 5 million men and women received care at the 4,500 Title X funded community clinics, which provide services such as contraception, cervical cancer screenings, annual gynecological exams, and STI testing and treatment.
This funding is especially important to women who make up 93 percent of patients at Title X clinics. Millions of low income women rely on these clinics for family planning services, which are an important part of basic health care for all women. Planned pregnancies are healthier for both women and children, as family planning can lead to a decreased risk of adverse perinatal outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, and small for gestational age, as well as decreased risks of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and placental problems. It is estimated that Title X family planning services helped prevent 973,000 unplanned pregnancies in 2008. Additionally, many low income women rely on these clinics for all of their basic health care. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 60 percent of women who obtain care at a publicly funded family planning clinic considered that clinic their usual source of medical care. That number goes up to 75 percent for poor women.
Now is not the time to cut these important services. Even before cuts, there weren’t enough resources to serve the 17 million women in need of publicly funded family planning services and the number of women in need is growing rapidly. It increased by more than one million between 2000 and 2008. At a time when there are record numbers of uninsured women and women are being left behind by the economic recovery, the last thing the government should be doing is cutting women’s basic health care.