By: Anita Cheng
The rampant debates on Capitol Hill regarding the federal budget have captured every major headline in recent weeks. Among the proposed cuts is the elimination of the Title X Family Planning Program “Title Ten”. Prior to reading this article, I had no idea of the existence of this program under the Public Health Service Act signed by President Nixon in 1970. Through Title Ten, low-income and uninsured individuals gain access to not only contraceptives and family planning advice but also Pap tests for cervical cancer screenings, clinical breast exams, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Health care professionals working at clinics that are grantees of Title Ten stated that this program serves as an entry way for them to gain understanding of patients’ other health care needs that would otherwise go undetected. For example, individuals who enter the clinic in search of birth control pills may exit with new knowledge on how to reduce and maintain their high blood pressures or blood sugar levels.
One of the major reasons cited by supporters of eliminating funding for Title Ten is the program’s close ties to abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood. Twenty-five percent of Title Ten’s funding is funneled to Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services through private money. However, every federal dollar replaces a private dollar that can fund programs that support abortions. Although I do not wish to comment on my personal beliefs surrounding the ethical complications of abortion, I agree with Dr. Hathaway’s statement on the injustice that is barring low income women from preventing pregnancy when resources are available in a country that possesses the most advanced medical technology. The elimination of Title Ten would only increase the abortion rate. Donovan’s comment in the article suggests the use of private insurance instead of federal funding to cover these services. This proposal, however, would perpetuate the problem we see in our healthcare system – that those who need care the most (the poor and uninsured) are the least likely to receive it.
In the current state of the economy, it is undeniable that budget cuts are necessary to prevent our federal budget deficit from falling deeper. However, where should the line be drawn when it comes to cutting programs that will result in propagating a pattern of social injustice? Do public health practitioners have enough political clout to warn lawmakers of consequences that will impact the health of their constituencies?