In a speech Monday, Vice President Mike Pence addressed anti-abortion activists and predicted that legal abortion would come to an end “in our time.” The message came a week after an announcement that there would be changes in the Title X grant applications for health care clinics.
Title X is a federal grant program that addresses family planning as well as preventative health services.
“I just know in my heart of hearts that this will be the generation that restores life in America,” Pence said during a luncheon hosted by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List & Life Institute.
Regardless of whether one agrees with the practice of abortion or not, these changes to Title X funding pose a serious threat to women’s health.
The new application will prioritize faith-based organizations that aim to promote abstinence and natural family planning methods. Unlike the Obama administration’s efforts, which ensured patients’ access to a wide variety of reproductive health care services, this new document fails to even mention the word contraceptive.
Making it difficult for health care clinics like Planned Parenthood to acquire Title X funds, which allow them to provide preventative health services, will devastate an invaluable source of affordable health care for women in low-income communities.
Clinics backed by Title X serve over four million women every year, according to the U.S Department of Health & Human Services. Some basic services include: well-woman exams, breast cancer screenings, contraception education, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
If the health and well-being of women and children were a priority for the Trump administration, comprehensive sex education would be mandated nationwide and they would make it easier to obtain free birth control and prenatal care, extended maternity leave and quality affordable health care.
But these basic necessities have been completely ignored in exchange for what is a glaring attempt to control women’s bodies and reinforce patriarchal values. As a result, women’s reproductive freedoms are severely limited while men freely abandon any responsibility for their sexual activities.
The thought of women having any jurisdiction over their own body seems to terrify most conservative politicians these days. Since President Donald Trump took office, the administration has made it a priority to deny women safe and efficient methods of birth control.
For example, in October 2017 the administration expanded the right of employers to deny women contraception in their insurance coverage on the grounds of religious freedom.
As a result of the Title X application changes, not only will it be more difficult for health care providers to offer women basic care, it will also limit access to effective types of birth control.
Because of the birth control pills proven ability to reduce unintended pregnancies — 99.9 percent effective, according to WebMD — women and teens gain more control of their own lives and can effectively plan for a future they want instead of abruptly being handed one they may not. The Center for Disease Control lists birth control in the top 10 public health achievements in the last half century.
Abstinence education, another key point in the application, lacks substantial factual evidence to prove its effectiveness, even though Congress spends $90 million on abstinence-only programs every year, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.
In contrast, a large volume of research has shown that comprehensive sex education focusing on contraceptives is critical to reducing unintended pregnancies among teens as well as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
In Texas, 83 percent of school districts taught abstinence-only or lacked any form of sex education in 2015 and 2016, according to a report by the Texas Freedom Network. As of 2018, Texas has the fourth-highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country.
When Pence was governor of Indiana in 2011, he passed state funding cuts which shut down five Planned Parenthood clinics. In 2016, Pence declared a state of emergency — an HIV outbreak had spread throughout the county.
Birth control and sexual education are vital to ensuring the health and safety of women, teens and even men. Under changes in Title X funding, these necessities will be extremely limited and out of reach for many women in need.
Those who seek to change the way Title X operates, do so under the impression that the money supports the practice of abortion. But in fact, health providers are prohibited from using those funds for abortion services; it’s entirely separate — that’s why Title X has received bipartisan support since it began in 1970.
This debate has nothing to do with an embryo and everything to do with the systemic oppression of women, particularly poor women of color. It’s about the treatment of women’s bodies as disposable reproductive machines.
The changes in the Title X funds will have devastating widespread repercussions. Without proper funds, clinics will be forced to shut down, unintended pregnancies will rise and women won’t have a place within driving distance to get the affordable and timely care they need.
With these seemingly endless legislative attacks on reproductive rights, women are constantly forced to give up basic liberties. Their bodies are used as tools of negotiation, subject to debate and scrutiny by everyone else, while their own voice is drowned out and silenced. For women, a state of emergency is a familiar occurence and something that is always looming just around the corner.