Congressional Republicans delivered a devastating blow to women's reproductive healthcare on Thursday. Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking 51st vote on a bill that will let individual states block federal funding from going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The federal family planning program, also known as Title X, is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to family planning and preventative health services for women. Title X was also designed to prioritize low income and uninsured patients. It's a critically important program for women across the country, however, Republicans have long aimed to block the $200 million of federal funding from going to family planning organizations that provide abortion services. Title X provides a variety women's health care services, though, and they're all vitally important for women's well-being, not to mention the fact that taxpayer dollars are already barred from use for abortion services under the Hyde Amendment.
While Title X funding has supported organizations that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, that is not the only health care service they provide. In fact, Title X funding doesn't even go toward abortion services in their health care facilities. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), providers receiving funds from Title X are legally required to encourage "family participation in the decision of minors to seek family planning services" and promote abstinence first to minors. Amid the focus on abortions, though, many people might not be aware that money from the Title X program provides life saving health care to millions of women across the country.
Title X provides a multitude of important, everyday health care services for both women and men. Ninety percent of its funds go to clinical services, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings and prevention, natural family planning, infertility services, and well-woman exams. Title X provides funding for sexually transmitted disease and HIV prevention, education, and testing, as well. Health care providers partnering under Title X also provide birth control options for men, including condoms and vasectomy services.
Title X funding has grown to be a divisive issue between Congressional Democrats and Republicans, but this wasn't always the case. President Richard Nixon signed Title X into law in 1970 after it passed unanimously in the Senate, writing that "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition."
These days, however, the conversation surrounding abortion has grown much more vitriolic over the past 47 years. If individual states choose to withhold federal funding from Title X assisted organizations over a false belief that the funds will be used to provide abortions, many women across the country could lose access to dependable, affordable, and necessary health care altogether.
Planned Parenthood reports that more than 4 million women rely on affordable family planning services that are funded by Title X. Planned Parenthood reportedly provides health care to about one-third of all people who benefit from Title X programs. That's 1.5 million people who might suffer if Planned Parenthood loses federal funding under Title X, despite the fact that no government money goes to their abortion services. These are real women who need real health care. From cancer screenings to pap smears, Title X helps women throughout the United States get the health care they need.
It's up to each state now to decide whether they will withhold federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion services. It's certainly a setback for women's reproductive health and rights, but the fight isn't over. You can still make your voice heard by getting in touch with your local representatives and encouraging them to support Title X funding. Just one phone call could help keep important Title X funded organizations open and providing necessary women's health care.