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June 20, 2008

Pro-Choice Americans Praise Family-Planning Funding Increase

$15 million gain underscores importance of pro-choice congressional leadership

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, praised House leadership and key appropriators for championing a $15 million increase for Title X, the federal program that provides family-planning and reproductive-health services to approximately five million low-income women and men. The move came in yesterday's unveiling of the FY'09 House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill.

"This increase is critically important to ensure that women receive the family-planning care they need," Keenan said. "As our country grapples with an alarming health-care crisis, we need to invest in programs like Title X that provide essential services – including cancer screenings and prenatal care – to vulnerable uninsured and under-insured populations. Furthermore, by providing access to affordable birth control, the Title X program helps women and families prevent unintended pregnancy, and thus reduces the need for abortion."

Keenan said the subcommittee's action underscores how pro-choice congressional leadership can have an impact on Americans' everyday lives.

"Pro-choice Americans applaud Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman David Obey, and other members of the subcommittee for their commitment to women's health," Keenan said. "President Bush has starved the Title X program for the past eight consecutive years – and when it was under anti-choice control, Congress usually followed his lead. Thankfully, under new pro-choice leadership, Congress has put aside the usual Bush-style politics of rhetoric and division, and instead focuses on positive policies to prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion – a commonsense goal that Americans of all political stripes support."

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed family planning as one of the 10 great public-health achievements of the 20th century, and recognized the Title X program as having contributed significantly to women's health. In fact, it is estimated that from 1980-2000, Title X clinics helped women prevent nearly 20 million unintended pregnancies, nine million of which would have ended in abortion. Furthermore, investing in family planning saves money overall: for every $1 spent on publicly funded contraceptive care saves an average of $3.80 in Medicaid costs for newborn- and pregnancy-related care.

The same bill approved by the House subcommittee also level-funds dangerous and discredited "abstinence-only" programs – which censor important public-health information about contraception. Under the Bush administration and previous anti-choice Congresses, these harmful programs enjoyed huge, unmerited funding increases; in just five years they received a 485-percent increase, going from a funding level of $20 million in FY'01 to an all-time high of $113 million in FY'06. Fortunately, the new pro-choice Congress is taking important first steps to reverse course. While pro-choice Americans prefer to see risky and ineffective "abstinence-only" programs eliminated altogether, they can find solace in knowing that these programs are flat-funded in the House FY'09 health-spending bill.

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