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Politicians out to block women's health care have found a new angle less than a week after the GOP retreated on its Obamacare repeal bill: take away family planning care for 4 million people (most of whom have low incomes). The final vote is later today.

Let's review: Last week, Republican Congressional leaders faced a stunning rebuke on their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and block access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide. What's an anti-women's health politician to do? Threaten family planning for low-income people, of course.

This morning, a group of male politicians voted to claw back critical protections for Title X, the nation's family planning program. The group was led by Vice President Mike Pence, who (in a highly unusual procedural move) cast the deciding vote to send the anti-women’s health bill to the Senate floor. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law, it will overturn a rule that protected health care for more than 4 million people who rely on Title X. Several hours of debate is expected before final vote.

“Mike Pence went from yesterday's forum on empowering women to today leading a group of male politicians in a vote to take away access to birth control. There’s a reason they could barely get enough votes to get this bill through a procedural step: People are sick and tired of politicians making it even harder for them to access health care, and they will not stand for it." 
—Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

What's at Stake for Title X Patients

This move could have far-reaching implications for people’s access to health care through the Title X family planning program across the board. It also could embolden states to discriminate against family planning health care providers — both Planned Parenthood health centers and independent clinics.

We've seen this discrimination play out on the state level:

  • When Kansas cut access to reproductive health care providers across the state, it hurt patients who relied on both Planned Parenthood and independent clinics for Title X care. After Kansas’s policy went into effect, the number of Kansans who received care through Title X fell 37%.
  • A similar policy in Texas alongside state budget cuts devastated the entire safety net, shuttering independent clinics and Planned Parenthood health centers, and led to a 77% decrease in women served.

When it was introduced by the Obama Administration last year, the rule protecting Title X patients garnered widespread support in the call for public comment, with 91% of the roughly 145,000 responses in favor of the ruleThe rule ensured those most in need — those who have very low incomes or lack health insurance — have access to lifesaving care, such as cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams.

"Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and this move by DC politicians would endanger their health care. This would take away birth control access for a woman who wants to plan her family and her future. Too many people still face barriers to health care, especially young people, people of color, those who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes. We will never stop fighting for the right of every person to access the care they need.” 
—Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

About Title X, the Nation's Family Planning Program

Title X helps ensure that every person, regardless of where they live, how much money they make, or whether or not they have health insurance, has access to basic, preventive reproductive health care. Simply put, Title X helps ensure more than 4 million people have health care in this country. The nation’s family planning program offers preventive health care services to those most in need. This is the only way that millions of women who have low incomes or are uninsured have access to birth control, cancer screenings, STI tests, and other basic care.

  • 85% of the people served by our nation’s family planning program have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level, and 48% are uninsured.

  • In 2015 alone, Title X provided nearly 800,000 Pap tests, breast exams to 1 million women, nearly 5 million tests for STIs, and 1 million HIV tests.  

  • 6 in 10 women who access care from a family planning health center consider it their main source of health care. For 4 in 10, it’s their only source of care (source: Guttmacher).

Planned Parenthood & Title X

Planned Parenthood health centers provide preventive care for approximately 1.5 million patients through Title X. That's roughly one-third of the more than 4 million people served by the program.

  • Of the 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients who benefit from Title X, 78% live with incomes of 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or less. 150% FPL is the equivalent of $35,775 a year for a family of four in 2014.

  • Planned Parenthood health centers are considerably more likely to offer Title X patients a broader range of contraceptive methods than other providers. In a study of Community Health Centers (CHCs) that reported an independent family planning clinic in their largest site's community, 69% reported referring their patients to family planning providers (like Planned Parenthood health centers) for family planning care.

  • Approximately 20% of Planned Parenthood patients who use Title X identify as Latino/a; and approximately 14% identify as Black. People with low incomes and communities of color are two groups that have historically faced systemic barriers in accessing quality health care, are less likely to have health insurance, and who benefit most from these protections.

  • Planned Parenthood health centers are located in the communities where access to care is most needed: More than half of Planned Parenthood's health centers across the U.S. are in rural and  underserved communities with limited access to health care. For many patients across the country, reproductive health care providers are the only places they can turn to for health care.

  • Given with anti-women's health politicians' efforts to block patients who rely on government programs from care at Planned Parenthood, experts have resoundingly dismissed the idea that other providers could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients. In fact, the executive director of the American Public Health Association called the idea “ludicrous." 

Tags: Title X, birth control

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