Reproductive Health Care for Women Threatened in New Congress: Title X in Jeopardy

By Tucker, Charlotte | The Nation's Health, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Reproductive Health Care for Women Threatened in New Congress: Title X in Jeopardy


Tucker, Charlotte, The Nation's Health


WOMEN'S reproductive health issues have been pushed back into the spotlight in recent months as members of the new conservative majority in the House of Representatives introduce bills that would affect funding for family planning and women's health programs.

The bills have led some women's reproductive health advocates to say they feel as though reproductive health is being threatened in a way that it has not been in the recent past.

"From the women's health perspective, it's quite striking that the new extremists in Congress are trying to undo both the health reform achievements of the last Congress and the long history of support for family planning services in our country," said Lois Uttley, MPP, an APHA member and co-founder of Raising Women's Voices, a national health care initiative.

In particular, several recent efforts have women's reproductive health advocates concerned. H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, introduced in January, would prohibit federal funds from being used for any health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion and would disallow tax benefits for the purchase of health insurance plans that cover abortion. Also introduced in the House in January was H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act. The bill would amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as the health reform law, to prohibit federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services. Reproductive health advocates say the bill would allow hospitals to refuse lifesaving abortion care to women.

Both H.R. 3 and H.R. 358 seek to revive parts of a failed 2010 amendment to the health reform law. The amendment, which was originally proposed by former Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., would prohibit the use of Affordable Care Act funds from being used for abortions unless the pregnancies were the result of rape or incest.

Also troubling to reproductive health advocates are efforts to undermine Title X programs. On Feb. 18, the House of Representatives passed an amendent to H.R. 1, the continuing budget resolution, that would remove $300 million in funding for Title X family planning programs, most notably Planned Parenthood. The amendment passed with a vote of 240 to 185 on a largely partyline vote. The overall bill was headed for a vote in the Senate at press time.

The vote was met with widespread disapproval from women's health advocates and led to public protests. Elimination of Title X would mean "basic life-saving health care would disappear if the anti-choice lawmakers in the House got their way," Ted Miller, communications director for Naral ProChoice America, told The Nation's Health.

"Title X is an American success story and it's in jeopardy right now," he said.

The Title X program was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, and Planned Parenthood is the largest recipient of Title X funds. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. By law, priority is given to people with low incomes. In fiscal year 2010, Congress appropriated nearly $320 million for family planning activities supported under Title X.

Although the law says no federal funds can be used for abortions, opponents contend that Title X funding provided to facilities that also perform abortions frees up money and allows them to continue performing abortions. …

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