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Pardon the Political Interruption: Cutting out Title X is Unacceptable

February 20, 2011

I don’t foresee that my blog is regularly going to be a place where I discuss politics.  I mean, it’s called squirrels and pearls.  However, I’m making an exception today to talk about what’s going on in Congress this weekend.  Republicans and Tea Partiers are committed to huge spending cuts to reduce the size and scope of the federal government and the deficit. I’ll grant that spending cuts need to happen, and they will undoubtedly be painful cuts that affect many people.  What pisses me off is conservative members of congress using this as an opportunity to pass legislation that hurts women’s health by painting it as a deficit saving measure.

Congress is voting to cut all funding to Title X, which provides funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health and family planning clinics. This is couched in terms of fiscal responsibility and ending tax dollars going toward abortions. Of the $60 billion the House is attempting to cut from the budget, Title X literally accounts for .005%. Clearly, women’s reproductive health is an enormously expensive and frivolous cost.

Why does it always come back to this? Already, legislation ensures that tax dollars don’t pay for abortions. Any health care provider who performs abortions must account for how money is spent to ensure compliance with the law. Because even though abortion is legal in this country, and is a legitimate women’s health procedure, people don’t want to have to help fund something they don’t agree with. Because that’s totally how it works, right? I don’t agree with a lot of things we spend money on, but I still have to help pay for them.

But this is more than just about abortion. Title X provides funding to family planning clinics to provide birth control, cancer screenings, pelvic exams, and countless other resources to millions of people all over the country. Many women’s access to reproductive care is limited to such clinics because they can actually afford it due to their sliding scale payment plan (made possible by Title X funding).

Congress is also attempting to overturn Obama’s health care plan, which (in theory anyway) would provide affordable insurance to those without access to group plans. This health care plan would allow women who don’t have group insurance to be able to afford a plan that actually comprehensively covers women’s health, which many individual plans don’t include unless you are willing to pay an additional (and astronomical) fee.  Why, as a women, can an insurance plan tell me that covering a huge aspect of my health (sometimes birth control, but almost always pre-natal care) is optional? Women make up more than half of the population in this country. Women everywhere need pap smears, birth control, cervical cancer screenings, and medical care when they become pregnant– how is this not something that insurance plans have to cover as part of their regular plans?

So, in short, Congress is attempting to block the ability for those without health insurance to actually obtain affordable health insurance that covers women’s reproductive health. They are attempting to cut finding for Title X, which currently provides access to affordable women’s health care for those without insurance or with inadequate insurance. And they are painting all women as irresponsible and greedy for wanting to have regular and affordable access to care. Already, an estimated 50% of all pregnancies (no, not a typo) in the U.S. are unplanned. Blocking access to affordable care will only increase that statistic, as well as increase the number of abortions in this country.

It’s a matter of personal responsibility, they say. Yes, it is. But, when women are systematically being denied the ability to take responsibility for their own reproductive health, it becomes something else. It becomes legislation that paints women who have sex as irresponsible and unworthy of care. It paints women of a lower socio-economic status, who can’t afford “luxuries” like birth control and regular annual exams, with the same brush as the supposed “pimps and hookers” who frequently utilize Planned Parenthood’s services. It does everything it can to block women who need it from having access to a medical procedure that is completely legal.

It seems to me like this legislation is a way for a bunch of old white men to work out their mommy issues and their Madonna-Whore complexes, while being completely unaffected by the consequences of their actions. Why is our society still one that relegates women’s health to being “something icky” we must talk about euphemistically, if we talk about it at all (ie- tampon and pad ads, birth control ads, etc)? How can we live in a country that vilifies other countries for oppressing womens’ rights, when we’re doing it right here at home under the guise of austerity measures?

Women’s Reproductive Health is not an optional luxury item. This is an important issue.  You can write to your Representatives in Congress or sign Planned Parenthood’s open letter to Congress.

And to my (very few, I’m sure) male readers: Take action because this affects you too. Help keep the women in your life healthy. And help keep yourself from becoming a father WAY before you’re ready.

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