On Friday, February 18, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment eliminating  the Title X Family Planning Program and Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) 300+ million dollars in federal funding.  According to the Department of Health & Human Resources, Title X was enacted in 1970 in order to provide access to family planning and other health related services including cancer screenings, breast and pelvic exams, contraception services, STD education, counseling, research and testing, prenatal care and counseling, and community outreach.  Title X funding typically supports low-income and young women without health insurance and is a significant resource of funding for PPFA.

In addition to voting against Title X funding, the House also voted to eliminate Medicaid funding for PPFA.  According to Susan Yolen, Vice-President of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, 30% of the patients who visit PPFA use Medicaid.  According to a fact sheet published by PPFA last September, the organization serves over 5 million men and women annually.

Many people view this attack against family planning programs, and specifically against PPFA, as a win for anti-abortion advocates.  Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life legislative, stated,  “This landmark vote demonstrates that most House members now recognize Planned Parenthood is a hyper-political, under-regulated, out-of-control mega-marketer of abortion as a method of birth control.   However, Section 1008 of the Title X statute bars the use of federal funding “to promote or encourage abortion as a method of family planning.”  Also, only a small portion of PPFA’s funding is used in abortion-related services.  According to PPFA, abortions are 3% of the total services provided by the organization.

The most significant and devastating effects of these cuts are that  low-income women and men who use organizations like PPFA for general health purposes.   According to PPFA, 60% of women who receive medical care from these organizations use these clinics as their primary source of health care.    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated, “These proposals have nothing to do with being fiscally responsible…Instead, these proposals would have serious consequences for women’s health in New York City and across the nation.  Removing funding for women’s health clinics through these proposals will likely increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, increase the number of women with cervical and breast cancers who are not diagnosed until the cancers are in late stages, and increase unintended pregnancies among women.””

Despite the House’s enthusiasm for defunding Title X and PPFA, this amendment will probably fail in the Democratically-controlled Senate.  And even if the amendment somehow made it to President Obama’s desk, he will probably veto the legislation.  Obama has previously supported family services.  For instance, in one of his first acts in office, Obama lifted the Bush era “gag rule.”  Last week, Obama spoke in favor of PPFA and the work they do.  Right now, however, there is real fear that the Republican House and the Democrat Senate will butt heads over this 2012 budget, including these defunding measures, and shut down the government.

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