House and Senate Budgets Propose Slashing Family Planning Program Funding

Both houses of Congress proposed measures last month to decrease funding for the Title X Family Planning program and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program for the 2016 fiscal budget.

Title X of the Public Health Service Act gives low-income people access to contraception, counseling and screening for sexually transmitted infections, while the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program focuses a similar array of services on teens and vulnerable subpopulations.

The House’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget defunds the $101 million pregnancy prevention program. It also would eliminate all of Title X’s $286 million funding.

“The bill reflects careful consideration of every program, cutting the fat and making the most out of every dollar,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) in the House’s June 24 press release relating to the 2016 proposed budget.

The Senate’s proposed budget reduces the prevention program’s funding by about 80 percent—to $20 million for abstinence-based sex education. This plan would reduce Title X funding by $29 million.

Roy Blunt (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversaw the proposed cuts, said in the Senate’s June 23 press release that the bill “will provide a significant benefit to all Americans.”

Supporters of Title X and the pregnancy prevention program say that completely or partially defunding the two programs does not benefit the populations they serve.

“This is a classic case of being penny-wise and pound foolish,” said Bill Albert, the chief program officer at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Albert said the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program “saves money down the road for teen childbearing costs.” He cited the $10 billion that teen childbearing costs taxpayers annually, a figure from the campaign’s 2013 report “Counting it Up,” relative to the $101 million spent on the prevention program.

“We’re very concerned about these cuts – they’re, frankly, in my mind immoral. They target the neediest citizens,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Although the Senate’s budget continues funding both programs, Benjamin said it did not provide sufficient support, especially to the pregnancy prevention program.

“Abstinence-only education doesn’t work,” Benjamin said. “People should have comprehensive family planning services.”

In 2001, the House of Representatives proposed similar measures to completely defund Title X and its grantees. That budget was amended and Title X instead lost $38 million in federal funding.

Meiling Bedard is a journalism intern for The Chronicle of Social Change and a rising junior at Boston University.

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Meiling Bedard
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Meiling is a journalism intern for The Chronicle of Social Change and a junior at Boston University.