AMA says hog-tying Title X will catalyze a “national public health crisis”
While Ivanka Trump waxes political about creating more business opportunities for women, her father recently took further action to limit female success by denying them reproductive healthcare access. The Trump Administration recently gutted the ability of millions of women to receive the healthcare and education they need to plan their families — and the inability to control her own reproductive choices condemns nearly as many women to a life of poverty.
The Trump administration effectively hog-tied Title X funding from providing money to any clinics which provide women with information about abortion or offer abortion services, a move the American Medical Association is saying will become a “national public health crisis.” Under this new gag rule, providers such as Planned Parenthood would not only lose funding for performing abortions, they could not even refer patients to outside providers who do the procedure. As a result, the very women who need legitimate family planning advice and care the most will soon find nowhere to turn, and U.S. taxpayers will ultimately pay the price.
Trump’s Title X Travesty
The Title X Family Planning Program, founded in 1970, provides grant money to healthcare facilities which provide comprehensive, confidential family planning services and education. Part of the intent of the program involved preventing sexually transmitted diseases and providing cancer screenings. Additionally, though, women frequenting Title X funding clinics receive honest, scientifically-accurate education about contraception.
While abortion remained illegal when the program initially launched, with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1972, many clinics receiving Title X funds expanded to add abortion services. In recent years, right-wing fundamentalists have attacked not only abortion, but contraceptive services, as well. Some label devices such as the IUD as “baby killers” when, in fact, all these birth control methods do is prevent one fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall.
Planned Parenthood, one of the largest recipients of Title X funds, provides reproductive health services to millions of young, low-income women each year. Even though Planned Parenthood does not use federal funds to provide abortions, they now face a Sophie’s choice of either denying biological reality or losing federal funds that do go to provide healthcare services and contraception education. Planned Parenthood has filed suit against the new rules, but only time will tell if they will prevail in today’s divisive political climate.
Why Women Need Healthcare and Education
Women need education about reproductive care, as well as access to services for multiple reasons. One reason revolves around the failure of many schools in some of the neediest areas embracing abstinence-only education instead of honestly explaining contraceptive choices to young women entering their sexual prime.
Schools in states that require abstinence-only education teach that the only way to prevent pregnancy and STDs is from refraining from sexual intercourse altogether. This endangers countless young women’s lives. Girls lacking knowledge of condoms and dental dams can easily contract anything from genital herpes to HIV simply for lacking the knowledge of how to reduce their risk.
The Trump administration passed earlier measures preventing many adult women from getting the care they need based on where they work. By expanding the religious exemption, the administration allowed individual business owners the right to deny birth control coverage as part of their health insurance plan. It staggers the mind that an administration presumably committed to reducing abortion rates would deny women free and accessible birth control, but, sadly, the underlying goal of such rules is controlling women’s lives while padding corporate profits.
Now, many women cannot even rely upon providers like Planned Parenthood to receive contraception on a sliding fee scale based upon their income. Additionally, many women won’t even be referred there to learn about options regarding their reproductive health.
This is a grave injustice, given the already apparent lack of knowledge surrounding a plethora of common women’s health problems. Did you know that an incredible 70-80% of women will develop uterine fibroids by their fifties, but many don’t even know the condition exists? Or how about the fact that over 50% of women living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) aren’t even aware they have it?
Both of these conditions are incredibly common in women and pose a threat to a woman’s ability to conceive, among many other things. The result? Thousands of women who want children experience infertility without ever even knowing why, due to a lack of access to educational resources. Meanwhile, countless unwanted children are born into lives of poverty and despair due to lack of access to Planned Parenthood options.
Societal Impact of These Policies
U.S. citizens groaning about the burgeoning deficit have only hit the tip of the iceberg of the economic disasters set forth by the current administration. One fact remains indisputable: when women can choose if or when to start a family, taxpayers save money. When they lose that right due to draconian misogynistic policies, taxpayers get hit in the pocketbook.
For example, the state of Colorado initiated a program providing the Mirena IUD to teens at no cost. When this policy still held sway, teen pregnancy rates dropped by more than a third. However, when incoming conservative politicians revoked the program, teen pregnancy rates rose once again.
Access to family planning services doesn’t simply allow individual women to advance their careers by choosing when or if to procreate. Reproductive access benefits society. Unwanted children create enormous economic strain, and that’s not even factoring in the resulting mental health issues which may occur from forced birth.
Raising a child to age 18 costs upwards of $200,000, and when women can’t prevent unwanted births through contraception and abortion, no magical fairy appears with a winning lottery ticket. Rather, these women often need to turn to public assistance to support their child. Even if a woman opts to put the child up for adoption, giving birth alone can cost $10,000 or more even if the birth goes smoothly.
Babies born with birth defects may need public assistance for life. So many women who experience pregnancy complications which lead to more serious and chronic health problems.
The Trump administration has already substantially increased the federal deficit. Additionally, their refusal to act on pressing matters such as climate change will leave unwanted children in a world filled with environmental catastrophes. Tying Title X funds to a gag rule on abortion may create a ripple effect of increased child poverty, disease and injury. And guess who gets to foot the bill? If you said, “the American taxpayer,” you win the Kewpie doll.
Empowering Women, Empowering the Future
Fortunately, not all hope is lost. Both Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association have filed suit to block the gag rule. Additionally, women can look to the blue wave of 2018 as a beacon of hope that rationality will soon return to the U.S. political and healthcare systems.
In the meantime, though, the most vulnerable American women face a harsh reality. Almost half of all visitors to Planned Parenthood benefit from Title X funding for contraception education and family planning, but how long those services will remain accessible is unknown.
The irony of an anti-abortion administration restricting birth control access shocks anyone capable of logical thinking. Hopefully someday, conservative politicians will listen to science and learn that reproductive choice does, in fact, lead to fewer abortions. In the meantime, though, women and their health will continue to suffer.