Our elected representatives have taken to the airwaves to proclaim they are extremely concerned with the fate of discarded fetal tissue; the fate of the health of poor women? Not so much.
Conservatives have again vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, now with even more gusto, following a strategically edited sting video suggesting the organization somehow exploits inanimate post-abortion fetal tissue to do scandalous things, like facilitating biomedical research.
While that “controversy” over fetal tissue tampering drones on, lawmakers tamper every day with the lives of real women, particularly the 20 million who need publicly supported reproductive health services. Their access to care is more needed than ever but facing unprecedented political threats, thanks to the perennial budget slashes proposed by right-wing lawmakers looking to prove their anti-abortion bona fides. Planned Parenthood has long been an embattled pillar of that healthcare landscape, but it is just one of many recipients of a federal funding stream that is coming under increasing political threat.
A key source of federal family planning funding, known as Title X, has seen a 10 percent cut in its budget since fiscal year 2010. Title X-funded clinics have already shed services for some 667,000 clients—capping a generation of funding declines since the 1980s, according to the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. For more than 4,100 clinics nationwide, these cuts have not only coincided with diminished services but outright closures. Under continual budget strains, about one in three family planning clinics in South Dakota, and one in five Maryland clinics, have vanished.
For that uninsured minimum-wage worker, her local Title X clinic is a fraying lifeline: she relies on it for birth control, health counseling, and cervical cancer and HIV screening (Title X funds, along with federal Medicaid, are restricted to non-abortion services). In 2013, according to Guttmacher Institute, “the contraceptive services provided by clinics alone helped women to prevent some 1.4 million unintended pregnancies, thereby helping women avoid 705,000 unplanned births and 485,000 abortions.” Even Republicans should be glad to know that publicly funded family planning prevented 164,000 unplanned preterm or low birthweight births.