More than Fifty Catholic State Legislators Urge Congress to Keep Title X Funding
In an unprecedented effort, fifty-seven Catholic state legislators have signed a letter urging their counterparts in Congress to keep Title X funding for family planning services in the federal budget. Citing their responsibility as Catholics to protect the rights of the most vulnerable Americans, the legislators say the proposed cuts would unfairly target the poor women who receive contraception and basic preventative healthcare from Title X funded clinics. The letter was published as an ad in Politico on April 5, 2011.
“Differential access to reproductive health services doesn’t work, and is the opposite of Catholicism’s ‘preferential option for the poor,'” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “By serving the uninsured, the homeless and the vulnerable, Title X clinics are already on the public health front lines,” he continued, praising the program’s success at promoting the dignity and possibilities of low-income women and men.
As the letter states, the move to eliminate Title X funding will be costly in the long run, and not just for the women who utilize it. Currently, the program’s clinics pick up where Medicaid and other safety net programs leave off, meaning that other state and federal funding will have to make up for the negative health outcomes left by the vacuum without Title X. According to the Guttmacher Institute, access to contraception through Title X clinics prevented 973,000 unintended pregnancies that would have resulted in 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 abortions in 2008. The absence of Title X funds will have a seriously negative impact on millions of women, men and and their families.
“It is unfair and just wrong to attempt to balance the budget on the backs of families in greatest need,” the letter says, pointing to the Catholic responsibility to listen to our individual conscience in matters of moral decision-making, and to respect other people’s right to do the same. The 4.7 million women who chose to utilize Title X services in 2008 will indeed be left without vital services such as basic preventative healthcare and contraception, but they will also be left without something even more vital: the means to follow their conscience.
The state legislators are conveying the importance of Title X funding to their colleagues in Congress as part of an increasingly vocal opposition to the introduction of more and more antichoice legislation around the country. Their stance as Catholics and public servants is that any effort to balance the budget must be made with the long-term implications for individual rights, public health and public expenditures in mind. Their views are in keeping with recent opinion polls of Catholic views on reproductive health services. According to a 2009 poll by Belden Russonello & Stewart, 63 percent of Catholics believed all Americans should have contraception included in their health coverage, whether it is privately or publicly funded. Fully seventy-three percent see healthcare access as a matter of social justice.