Yet again, House Republicans are taking aim at family planning. Last week, the House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee released a budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 that would remove all family planning funding under the Title X program. The Title X program provides access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including cancer screenings, contraceptive care, STI testing and much more, for 4.6 million people.
The House GOP just declared war on it.
Title X is critical for low-income Americans. Enacted in 1970, it is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The people who rely on Title X are some of our nation’s most vulnerable, including those with limited English proficiency, victims of domestic violence, and people experiencing homelessness.
But it does more than help the vulnerable. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Title X is actually a huge cost-saver to taxpayers. For every public dollar spent on contraceptive services, $3.74 is added in Medicaid savings. This is clearly a fiscally responsible choice, and yet Republicans are trying to end it. Why?
Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to gut Title X in the past while Democrats controlled the Senate. However, Republicans have successfully enacted a $31 million decrease in the program’s budget since 2010. It remains to be seen what will happen this time. Democrats will likely put up a fight to preserve this vital health care access. But even if this attempt fails, this move reveals the modern-day Republican ethos, and we cannot look away.
“Fewer resources would set off a cascade of effects that would push the family planning safety net beyond its breaking point—prompt health center closures, force layoffs among clinicians and administrators, and severely cripple service delivery capacity, all of which translate to fewer women and men who would be able to access the critical health care they need,” Clare Coleman, the president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), said in a statement in response. In short, this cut would be devastating.
This move flies in the face of any Republican deceitful claim that they support birth control access or that they simply oppose abortion (notably, Title X does not provide any funding for abortion). In reality, Republicans are trying to eradicate any semblance of reproductive health care from American women. Abortion? No. Contraception? No. STI testing? No. Breast cancer screenings? Nope, not even that, it seems.
Today’s Republican Party cannot seem to contain its bubbling contempt for women’s health care. The party of “Uncle Sugar” and “legitimate rape” has waged a devastating assault on women’s reproductive rights, enacting 231 restrictions on safe abortion in the last four years alone. The majority of American women now live in a state hostile to abortion rights. Seventy three safe abortion clinics have closed since 2011, and unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the entire state of Texas will be left with eight safe abortion clinics.
But this assault isn’t limited to American women. In the face of providing basic health care to those in need, (defined by the United Nations as a fundamental human right), the Republican party has responded with callous disregard. Both women and men rely on Title X funding. For some, Title X is their only means of accessing safe, quality health care. To cut off that access is to directly threaten the health and lives of the 4.6 million individuals who rely on it.
All of this is just business as usual for the Republican Party, who has slashed SNAP benefits, decimated reproductive healthcare, attempted to destroy public education and voted 58 futile times to repeal Obamacare.
Title X should not be a partisan issue, but then again, neither should public education or basic health care. Providing access to care for all Americans, regardless of income, isn’t just the Constitutional thing to do; it’s the moral thing to do. We all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but you can’t exercise any of those rights if you can’t get essential health care services. You can’t live freely and happily if you are sentenced to suffering by the party in power.
Lauren Rankin is a freelance writer, feminist activist, and board member of A is For, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing women’s reproductive rights. She has a Master of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University.