In a time of economic uncertainty, unnerving budget deficits, and
ever-worsening employment and revenue figures, it is understandable
that the legislators and agency heads charged with setting the
budget for the state of Washington for the next two years are inclined to reach for the hatchet.
yes, there are going to have to be cuts, and many of those cuts will
have very real repercussions for those most in need. But dwindling
state revenues, coupled with more people than ever in need of
assistance, demands precise and thoughtful budget trimming.
is why the state Senate and House budget proposals are so alarming.
Among the slew of heartbreaking cuts, the Senate budget calls for a $1
million reduction in state spending on funding for birth control and
other family planning services for low-income and at-risk women, which
is 10 percent of the total program. The House budget is even worse; it
proposes a 10 percent cut for the first year of the two-year budget,
and then calls for the complete elimination of family planning funding
in the second year. That means ending reproductive health care services
for over 20,000 Washington women, and putting up to an additional $19
million in pregnancy care costs on the state’s tab. This drastic cut is
a gamble with women’s health – and the state’s bottom line – that we
simply cannot afford.
In terms of benefits to recipients, tax
payers, and the financial health of the state, few social programs
compare to public funding for birth control and other family planning
services for low-income women. It’s a rare win-win-win in the realm of
public policy and state spending. That is why it is critical that we
preserve funding for family planning, even now, during one of the
state’s (and nation’s) darker economic hours.
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benefit from the most immediate "win." With continued funding,
low-income women can access birth control and other health care
services, thereby providing them with the ability to plan if and when
they get pregnant. When women are in control of their fertility, they
are more likely to complete their education, and find and retain
employment, making women and their children healthier.
women, no matter what their income level, have access to birth control,
the rate of unintended pregnancies goes down. This leads directly to
the next two wins:
Public funding for family planning care is a
smart investment. According to a 2008 study by the Guttmacher
Institute, for every $1 spent on public funding for reproductive health
care, the state saves over $4 in prevented future costs. According to
the state’s Department of Health statistics, it costs approximately
$550 a year to cover a full range of family planning services for each
Washingtonian in need, compared to almost $8,000 in state funds for
each Medicaid paid birth. When the state spends a relatively small
amount for family planning services, it saves big bucks down the road.
birth control (i.e. family planning) lifts poor women out of poverty
and helps keep more women from falling into poverty. Not only is this directly
beneficial to the women in question, it is also to the benefit of
society as whole. A reduction in poverty means less of a strain on
public resources and a happier and more productive community. If one of
the goals of the budget process is to establish longer-term financial
stability for the state – and one would hope that is the case – then it
is easy to see that family planning funding should be off the chopping
Economic realities mean that many tough decisions await
the legislature. To be sure, it is an unenviable task. In the case of
funding for birth control and other family planning services for the
state’s low-income and marginalized women, the decision is refreshingly
easy. For the sake of Washington’s women and for the state’s financial
health, the state must allocate full, ongoing funding for reproductive