A key objective on the pro-life agenda has long been to undermine Planned Parenthood, and it seems such an endeavor will at last come to fruition. The Trump administration passed a rule last month defunding health centers that provide abortion, effective May 3. It’s an act that not only limits a woman’s choice to bodily autonomy (a hackneyed argument in itself), but erodes access to one of the only sources of adequate healthcare for women who cannot otherwise afford it.
Title X, enacted in 1970 with broad bipartisan support, directs federal funds toward providing reproductive health care for a base that consists mostly of low-income individuals who lack insurance. The provision currently covers $60 million of Planned Parenthood’s annual costs. In less than two months, that number will go to zero.
Yet official statistics show that most of the clinic’s funding come through Medicaid reimbursements, so why does this relatively insubstantial loss of Title X matter?
The answer is not in any forfeiture of profit for the provider, but in deprivation of proper care for the populus. Not everybody is covered by Medicaid; nor are all services. That’s where Title X makes a difference. When I walked into Planned Parenthood two years ago to obtain an IUD, I would have been taking advantage of this program in an effort to prevent the very necessity of what pro-lifers fear most: abortion.
In fact, none of Title X’s money is allocated to abortion in the first place—it’s illegal under the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used for the service except in cases of rape, incest or severe risk to a pregnant woman’s life. To refuse this funding to women’s health clinics that simply happen to provide abortion connects so poorly with logic that it’s reasonable to assume it just another partisan game in which the football being punted is the health of the disadvantaged.
However, it is appropriate here to concede that federal contributions to the bulk of its services do allow Planned Parenthood to more easily free up its own resources for the purpose of abortion. Statistics on the frequency of actual pregnancy terminations performed are unclear: Planned Parenthood’s figure that abortions account for only three percent of its services fail to express some nuances.
The clinic weighs all services equally, despite the factor that a pap smear or pregnancy test is significantly less costly and intrusive than an abortion. However, it cannot be misstated that abortion is not the clinic’s primary function.
One major vindication those in favor of the new Title X rule like to raise is that this change won’t reduce Title X funding overall, but merely redirect it. Surely all those women in need can simply turn to non-abortion providing health centers.
This idealistic supposition overlooks the reality that many rural residents are geographically isolated from other options. In Ohio, for example, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of Title X across nine counties. In Wisconsin, seven counties.
To strip away millions of women’s access to a vast array of reproductive care—in the name of pro-life values—is nothing more than an act of neglectful cruelty from the gloved hands of those who need not worry about how to pay for their next pap smear.