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What is Title X? It Provides Equal Access To Family Planning Services

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On Thursday, for the second time in his role as Vice President, Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, this time paving the way for lawmakers to repeal President Obama's rule banning states from withholding Title X funding. So what is Title X, and why is it so controversial? It wasn't always this way. Title X is a federal grant program that funds family planning and preventive health services for low-income Americans. It does not pay for abortion. In fact, the rules governing it are rather conservative; providers are legally required to promote abstinence to minors and encourage them to get their parents involved in their family planning.

Unfortunately, that's not conservative enough by today's standards, but back when it was enacted in 1970, it passed unanimously in the Senate and only 32 Representatives voted against it. The program was the brainchild of President Richard Nixon, who wrote in a letter to Congress the year prior that "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition." Nixon raised the concern that the global population of 3.5 billion would double "by the end of this century" (it eventually happened in 2011), and also noted that "Unwanted or untimely childbearing ... helps to produce the dangerous incidence of illegal abortion." In hindsight, he seems like a pretty reasonable guy.

Republicans intend to vote later on Thursday to repeal Obama's rule so that states could choose to withhold Title X funding from Planned Parenthood. Again, Title X funding does not fund abortion, so the motive to "defund" the agency seems to be simply to punish them for just one of the many services they perform (abortion only accounts for 3 percent of their services) and in doing so, also punish the 1.5 million patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for Title X services like contraception, which prevents abortion, and cancer screenings, which prevent death.

According to Planned Parenthood, Title X saves taxpayers $7 for every $1 invested. In 2013, it paid for 1 million Pap tests, 1.6 million breast exams, and 6.8 million STI tests. Without Title X funding, some Planned Parenthood clinics would be forced to close, leaving many with no access to these services, just like what happened in Pence's Indiana in 2013. Without readily available STI testing, rural Scott County became host to an HIV epidemic so bad, the the Centers for Disease Control had to be called in. That's not a disaster we want to see repeated on a national scale. Call your Senator now.