The House Appropriations Committee introduced a draft of a funding proposal for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies that cuts all monetary support for Title X programs. These programs provide low-income individuals with important healthcare, such as family planning and preventive services. The measure would also eliminate $108 million allocated to teen pregnancy prevention grants.
This is the most recent in a string of attacks on access to birth control and family planning, following a number of attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that Section 1008 (PDF) of Title X prohibits this funding from going to abortion procedures.
The proposed elimination of Title X comes at a time when its services are needed most, as the Zika virus, which can be transmitted through mosquito bites and sexual activity, has spread rapidly across the Americas. On February 1, the World Health Organization labeled the epidemic of Zika as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The disease is most harmful to pregnant women, and has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly. The Zika virus can exist in semen for months, and the CDC recommends that men who have recently travelled to areas affected by Zika use condoms when engaging in sex, especially if their partner is pregnant. The CDC suggests that couples trying to get pregnant consult their healthcare provider and determine a timeframe for when it is safe to do so after possible exposure to Zika.
Access to birth control and contraceptives is vital in the attempts to stop the spread of the virus and protect the health of women and their babies. “It is particularly foolish to target Title X at a time when the nation is at the precipice of a public health emergency resulting from the Zika virus,” said Clare Coleman, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. “For the House to propose defunding the very provider network that is being called upon to address and control the risk to women who may be seeking to prevent pregnancy is absurd.”
Created in 1970 with bipartisan support, Title X serves approximately 4.5 million people annually and prevents about 1 million unplanned pregnancies each year. It provides healthcare through state, county, and local health departments; Planned Parenthood centers; community health centers; and hospital-based, school-based, faith-based, and other nonprofit organizations. Title X covers contraceptive care, STD screenings, HIV testing, and cervical cancer screenings, among other services. In 2011, 91% of the patients using Title X had incomes at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.