News Law and Policy

Senate GOP Wants to Gut Family Planning, Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Emily Crockett

Senate Republicans released a funding proposal on Tuesday that would significantly cut funding for women’s health, including Title X low-income family planning and a key evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program.

Senate Republicans released a funding proposal on Tuesday that would significantly cut funding for women’s health, including low-income family planning and teen pregnancy prevention.

House Republicans recently proposed completely eliminating Title X, the nation’s only low-income family planning program.

The spending bill proposed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on labor, education, and health and human services would cut Title X by 10 percent, or $28.7 million.

A vulnerable population that is 90 percent women, about half Black or Latino, and mostly uninsured or young relies on Title X clinics for birth control, testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and cancer screenings. Some recipients have no other contact with the health-care system except through Title X.

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The Senate did not propose completely eliminating the program like the House did. But such deep cuts to Title X, which is already languishing under the arbitrary budget cuts from sequestration, could have serious consequences.

A 10 percent cut to Title X would increase the number of unplanned pregnancies by more than 82,000 next year, according to a summary of the new budget proposal released by the committee’s Democrats, and would deny 430,000 people access to comprehensive family planning and preventive health services.

The spending bill also guts the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program by about 80 percent, an $81 million cut to a $101 million program.

If conservative legislators are interested in funding government programs that are proven to work, cutting the TPP is the exact opposite of what they should do, Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told reporters on a Tuesday press call.

“One of this nation’s greatest success stories is the extraordinary decline in teen pregnancy and childbearing,” Brown said. “I often ask people if they can think of any other major social indicator that has improved to this degree.”

The teen birth rate is down 61 percent since its most recent peak in the 1990s, including a surprising 29 percent drop just between 2010 and 2014.

And “it just so happens,” Brown said, that this decline coincides with the start of a focused federal investment in evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention. The TPP only funds programs that are proven to change teens’ behavior, not just their knowledge or their intentions.

“Why are we messing with success?” Brown said.

Brown was quick to add that one program alone can’t be held responsible for solving an issue as complex as teen pregnancy, but that the TPP has played a “leading role” in efforts to use research-based approaches over the past five years, and that the program is considered the “gold standard” of evidence-based policymaking.

The Senate bill eliminates the Women in Apprenticeships program and significantly cuts other job training programs. It also eliminates a community health program for communities with racial health disparities and cuts funding for substance abuse, mental health services, and numerous agencies responsible for enforcing labor laws related to wages and safety both in the United States and abroad.

The bill eliminates funding for the Affordable Care Act too. President Obama has threatened to veto not only any bill that hurts his signature health-care program, but also any bill that doesn’t roll back the deep spending cuts from sequestration.

“I am deeply disappointed with this bill, which would hurt families and communities and would double down on the automatic budget cuts that Republicans and Democrats agree are bad policy and need to be fixed,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the Senate subcommittee’s top Democrat.

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