The Austin Chronicle

Health Care Jeopardy

By Jordan Smith, February 18, 2011, News

If U.S. House Republicans get their way, the government would soon end all funding for Title X programs, which provide money for family planning and related health screenings for women who otherwise cannot pay for basic health care.

The program, funded with $317 million in fiscal year 2010, actually saves the government millions – to the tune of $3.80 for every dollar invested, according to 2006 numbers compiled by the Guttmacher Institute. Funding Title X has also prevented thousands of abortions, Guttmacher reported. President Barack Obama has requested an increase in Title X funding for next year, up to $327 million; however, the Republican spending plan announced last week would eliminate funding altogether.

The program was created by former President Richard Nixon in 1970, but the assault on it now seems prompted entirely by the ongoing hatred of Planned Parenthood by social conservatives who let their ire cloud reason. Indeed, according to PP President Cecile Richards, in many jurisdictions Planned Parenthood is the sole provider of Title X services, which include screenings for cervical and other cancers, hypertension, and diabetes, as well as other reproductive health services. In all, nearly 2 million low-income women get basic health care via Title X; if that funding is cut, there's no clear answer to where those women would go for services.

Allocation of Title X funds in Texas has also been the subject of ongoing struggles, again prompted by a dislike of Planned Parenthood. In the last several sessions some state lawmakers – notably, Greenville GOP Sen. Robert Deuell – have tried to have the matrix for allocating Texas' Title X funds reworked to push PP clinics to the end of the line for funds. That hasn't worked out well, primarily because PP plays such a major role here in providing health care for low-income and uninsured women. If the new plan in D.C. works, the state may find itself figuring out how, with a record deficit, it will provide health care for thousands of poor women.

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