New amendment may decrease Title X funds
By Grace Afsari Mamagani, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 25, 2011
The availability of medical resources for Upper Valley residents, including College students, could decline following the approval of an amendment that would eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, according to Kary Jencks, New Hampshire public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation, proposed by Congressman Mike Pence, R-Ind., on Feb. 18 as an amendment to a spending bill for the 2011 fiscal year, according to Pence’s website. The “Pence Amendment” is part of a proposition to eliminate over $300 million in federal funds provided to Title X — or family planning — organizations.
“It is morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund organizations that provide and promote abortions, like Planned Parenthood of America,” Pence said on his website.
New Hampshire organizations receive approximately $1.4 million in Title X funding every year, Jencks said in an interview with The Dartmouth. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England — the largest family planning provider in northern New England — receives the majority of this money.
Planned Parenthood maintains six centers throughout New Hampshire — including one in West Lebanon — that provide services including emergency contraception and other birth control, cancer screening and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, according to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s website.
The facilities provide services at a “sliding scale fee,” which enables patients to pay either no service charge or a partial service charge, depending on their income, Jencks said. This practice, mandated by Title X regulations, allows Planned Parenthood to accept all patients in need of care.
The Pence Amendment — which will pass to the U.S. Senate for discussion in committee — would drastically diminish the resources available to low-income individuals, many of whom are under the age of 30, Jencks said.
In 2010, the six New Hampshire centers provided over $5.5 million in “free and reduced cost” care, Jencks said.
“We’re talking about cancer screenings, we’re talking about contraception,” she said. “It’s taking away needed health care from low-income people who deserve and need access to the quality affordable health care that enables them to stay healthy.”
Approximately one in every five women visits Planned Parenthood during her lifetime, NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire Director Pilar Olivo said in an interview with The Dartmouth. A significant reduction in funding “threatens women’s access to contraception” and decreases the likelihood that women will seek preventative medical care, such as screening for certain types of cancer, she said.
“This is just wide-sweeping,” Jencks said. “This is the biggest attack on women’s health care I think that we have seen since the passage of Roe v. Wade.”
The amendment does not seek to limit women’s health services, but merely those that facilitate the prevalence of abortion, Pence said in a press release.
“There are literally thousands of clinics across the country — other than Planned Parenthood — that receive federal funding and offer access to health care for low-income women and families,” he said in the release.
The proposed amendment constitutes an ideological attack rather than an effective means to decrease the deficit, Olivo said.
“Congress is controlled by anti-choice leadership, so they promised a jobs agenda but they’re waging a war on contraception,” she said.
Planned Parenthood has been a “target” for conservative Republicans for a long time, government professor Linda Fowler said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth.
“This is just another in a series of efforts to defund the organizations,” Fowler said.
College Libertarians President Joshua Schiefelbein ’14 said that although he does not encourage government funding of organizations that provide abortion services, the $317 million cut in funding amounts to “a chump change number” in relation to the total deficit.
The removal of Title X funding could lead to greater costs and an even larger deficit in the long term, given that “every family planning dollar spent saves New Hampshire four dollars in medicative costs alone,” Jencks said. The efforts of 28 family planning centers in the state saved New Hampshire over $17 million in public funds in 2008, she said.
The legislation may also increase the number of unintended pregnancies and jeopardize the jobs of medical professionals, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards said in a press release on the organization’s website.
Funding allotted to Planned Parenthood is also the subject of New Hampshire House Bill 228-FN, which seeks to ensure that “all the money spent on abortions are not tax dollars,” State Rep. Robert Willette, R-Hillsborough, said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
The New Hampshire bill would prevent the State Department of Health and Human Services from entering a contract with “any organization that provides abortion services.” The legislation would also prohibit organizations from using public funds for such services, according to the bill’s text.
Willette said organizations like Planned Parenthood emphasize abortion over “other types of remedies” and should not use taxpayer money to fund abortion facilities.
In order to continue to receive state funding, the organization would have to “create a separate entity” offering abortion services that would not receive financial support, he said.
Recent actions taken by state legislators do not reflect the sentiments of New Hampshire residents in general, Olivo said.
“It’s pretty disturbing what’s happening in the State House these days,” she said. “The leadership is watching their committees very, very closely and trying to exercise a lot of control — it’s really out of touch with the way most people in New Hampshire think.”
The success of the Pence Amendment and House Bill 228-FN would force Planned Parenthood to change its business model on both local and national levels, Jencks said.
Olivo said many college students rely on Planned Parenthood services.
“This would have quite a disturbing effect on young women,” she said.