Republican House Priorities: Yes to Fast Cars, No to Women’s Health

By: Beirne Roose-Snyder, CHLP Staff Attorney

On Friday, February 18th, the House of Representatives voted to end all funding of Title X family planning clinics including Planned Parenthood.  On the same day they voted to continue funding NASCAR.  Women's health should not be a political sport, and there will be serious consequences if this should become law.


On Friday, February 18th, the House of Representatives voted to end all funding of Title X family planning clinics including Planned Parenthood, which is explicitly named for defunding.

In a vote the same day, the House voted to continue to fund the Army's $7 million sponsorship for NASCAR this year, with the Air Force and National Guard spending additional taxpayer money. Yesterday, discussion of the bill began on the Senate floor.

Planned Parenthood provides nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, a year. Data from the Office of Population Affairs in HHS shows just over 1 million HIV tests were performed at Title X funded clinics in 2009 alone.

Title X funding is described by the Office of Population Affairs in their 2009 Annual Report thusly:

The Title X program is the only federal program dedicated solely to the provision of family planning and related preventive health care. The program is designed to provide contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them, with priority given to persons from low-income families. Title X-funded agencies offer a broad range of effective and acceptable contraceptive methods on a voluntary and confidential basis. Title X funds also support the delivery of related preventive health services, including patient education and counseling; cervical and breast cancer screening; sexually transmitted disease (STD) and HIV prevention education, testing, and referral; and pregnancy diagnosis and counseling.

While bill sponsor Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) says taxpayer money should not go to groups that provide or promote abortion, even if the funds themselves do not go toward abortion (effectively reintroducing the Global Gag Rule, only domestically), public health proponents and providers know that less then 3% of Planned Parenthood's work are (the still legal) abortions while the rest is providing basic reproductive health care for millions of young and poor women. In addition to being a vital part of the national HIV testing landscape, Title X clinics and Planned Parenthood provide cervical and breast cancer screenings, STI testing, contraception, and sex education.

"Reproductive health care" is not meaningless, a catch phrase, or a political talking point. Reproductive health care means very real things to women throughout this country. It means regular pap smears that catch cancer early and have reduced the number of cervical cancer deaths in the United States to 4,021 in 2007 (the last year stats are available). The CDC notes that "Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. However, in the past 40 years, the number of cases of cervical cancer and the number of deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly. This decline largely is the result of many women getting regular Pap tests, which can find cervical precancer before it turns into cancer." Title X funding for clinics was also, and not coincidentally, introduced 40 years ago. In 2009, 2.2 million Pap tests were performed at Title X service cites.

Reproductive health care also means young women and men getting science-based sex education and contraceptives with information about how to use them. It means pregnancy tests and prenatal care, in parts of the country that are under, or un, served by other low or no cost health care facilities. For many women in the United States, Planned Parenthood and Title X funded clinics are their only regular health care providers. And 1 out of 3 women who received HIV testing or underwent testing, treatment or counseling for other STIs did so at a publicly funded family planning center.

The priorities of this House seem pretty clear. Life saving and life changing health care is not a priority, but recreational car racing is. Discussion of the bill has now begun in the Senate. Will they have more regard for women's health then their House colleagues?