By John Seager, President, Population Connection
This little-known program has been saving money, lives and heartache for more than 40 years here in the U.S. It prevents unwanted pregnancies, detects cancer, treats deadly infections and helps babies get a good start in life.
What would happen if that program suddenly vanished?
It wouldn’t be pretty. If Title X funding hadn’t existed in2008, we’d have seen an extra 973,000 unintended pregnancies. 433,000 unplanned births. And 406,000 abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Teen pregnancies would rise, and taxpayers would have to spend more on public services. Our health care system would suffer. So, too, would flesh and blood people.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just an interesting thought experiment. The future of Title X isn’t entirely secure.
|Title X provided 5.2 million Americans with reproductive care in 2010, but future funding is in doubt. (afagen/flickr)|
The National Family Planning Program, or Title X – pronounced “ten” – is one of the most important public health programs in the nation. Begun by President Richard Nixon in 1970, this program is a crucial source of reproductive care. In 2010 alone, it provided 5.2 million Americans with Pap tests, breast exams, family planning advice and contraception. Not a dollar of Title X money is spent on abortion. About 69 percent of families served by Title X had family incomes at or below the poverty level. Without Title X, these families most likely would simply go without.
Why should you care? I’m glad you asked.
When women are able to postpone pregnancy, plan their families and space their births, they are healthier, and their babies are, too, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teens can stay in school. College dreams can become reality. The economic pressures large families face can be avoided.
Our planet benefits, too, by less use of the natural resources we all depend upon.
Family planning also saves you and me money. Every dollar invested in Title X family planning programs saves $3.74 in Medicaid costs the next year, according to Guttmacher.
But for some strange reason, family planning now finds itself in the crosshairs. Whether for short-sighted budgetary concerns, arcane religious arguments or simple sexism, the House this year voted to defund Title X – and leave those 5.2 million Americans to fend for themselves.
This is no time to back down on our commitment to healthier women, children and families.
So the next time you hear silly politicians vowing to defund family planning programs, confront them. Ask them why they want more unintended pregnancies, extra unplanned births and a spike in the abortion rate. Ask them why they want fewer Americans taking responsibility for their choices by using contraception. Ask them why they want women’s lives constrained in a way that men’s simply are not.
Then listen – really listen – to their answer. That should tell you all you need to know.