As Congress sets budget priorities, let us pause to consider the short-sightedness of zeroing out the country's Title X family planning program.
First a little history: Title X was signed into law by President Richard Nixon 41 years ago as a bipartisan, common-sense approach to ensuring that low-income Americans have access to basic reproductive and preventive health care services.
Because of Title X, millions of women have been able to plan their families, prevent unintended pregnancies and protect themselves from cervical cancer and other diseases.
In Minnesota, Planned Parenthood's 21 Title X-supported clinics -- which serve communities from Bemidji to Fairmont -- provide birth control; breast and cervical cancer screenings; pelvic exams and pap smears; high blood pressure, diabetes and anemia screening; testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV; basic infertility services; pregnancy testing, and comprehensive health education.
(Which of the services on this list would you withhold from unemployed and uninsured women?)
Planned Parenthood's Title X-supported services include Well-Woman Care education programs, designed to encourage smoking cessation, reduce alcohol abuse, promote a healthy diet and protect against domestic abuse and sexual violence.
And they include community education programs to prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs among teens.
No Title X funds have ever been used for abortion.
In 2010, we served 52,482 patients at our Title X-supported clinics.
The vast majority are women older than 18 (94 percent) who are at or below the federal poverty level (61 percent). Almost half are uninsured, and most need help with their payment.
Our patients last year included:
•A woman in northern Minnesota with a compromised immune system who needed screening for cervical cancer.
•A self-employed, uninsured man in central Minnesota who needed testing and treatment for STIs.
•A drug rehabilitation patient in western Minnesota who needed birth control to prevent an unintended pregnancy.
•A domestic abuse victim in southern Minnesota who needed treatment for an infection and referral to a shelter.
Because of Title X, our patients get the care they need and problems that generate greater costs to all of us down the line are prevented.
I don't suppose we can call on compassion as these cuts are being made.
But at the very least we should be able to call on common sense. If you've never contacted your Congress members before, now is the time: Tell them that cutting Title X won't save a dime; instead, it will cost us dearly.
Sarah Stoesz is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.
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