A month after voting to ban abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, House Republicans went after reproductive health again on Tuesday by trying to cut all funding for a key federal family planning program.
The House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee’s new budget proposal would zero out funds for Title X, the only federal program devoted to providing low-income people with family planning services, birth control, well-woman visits, cancer screenings, screening for sexually transmitted infections, and other preventive services.
The bill would also cut comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention programs by 81 percent, while doubling funding for unproven abstinence-only teen sex education programs.
The impact on the nearly 4.6 million people who depend on Title X for their health-care needs would be “devastating,” said Clare Coleman, president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.
“For many of these women and men, a Title X-funded health center is their only access point to the health system and the only health care they receive all year,” Coleman said in a statement.
Title X grants serve a highly vulnerable population that is 90 percent women, half Black or Latino, and mostly uninsured or young. The grants go to a network of more than 4,100 health and community service agencies. Centers that are funded by Title X are significantly better at providing women with the most effective contraceptive methods, like intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants.
The House subcommittee released the bill ahead of a Tuesday markup session, which observers said is not typical procedure. Bloomberg News reports that the Labor-HHS bill “rarely makes a stand-alone appearance” outside of the larger appropriations bill, and that the bill is “designed to pick multiple fights” with Democrats and the Obama administration.
“It’s a giant finger in the eye of women’s rights, and is specifically designed to be so,” a House Democratic aide told Rewire.
Title X funds can’t be used for abortion care. But because about a quarter of the funds go to Planned Parenthood affiliates, anti-choice Republicans have used Title X as a political football for years, starting in 2011 when the GOP threatened a government shutdown over the issue.
“If Republican leaders in Congress think they can take away millions of women’s access to health care and shut down programs that are reducing teen pregnancy without one hell of a fight, they have another thing coming,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards said in a statement.