This month, for the second year in a row, the Population Institute is sponsoring a Global Population Speak Out to raise public awareness about issues related to population, the environment and sustainability. There are countless ways in which our failure to provide more women (and men) with access to contraceptives and family planning information is detrimental to the environment and sustainability. They include deforestation, the overfishing of ocean fisheries, climate change, the continuing loss of wetlands and other animal habitats, extinction of plants and animals, and the enormous quantity of toxins and other manufacturing byproducts that we are pouring into the Earth’s biosphere.
If we care about the environment and the kind of world that we will pass along to our children, we simply must do more to prevent unwanted and unintended pregnancies, and nowhere is that truer than in the United States, where the average “ecological footprint” is so large. Studies conducted as recently as a decade ago suggest that almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. In fact, our teenage pregnancy rate is among the highest in the industrialized world. Respect for women and their reproductive rights alone should compel us to expand family planning services and information to every woman who wants to avoid a pregnancy. The environmental consequences of our failure to do so only add to that moral imperative.
So what are House Republicans preparing to do about it? They want to wipe out the Title X Family Planning program [“Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Programs” (Public Law 91-572)], which was enacted in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. At the time of its passage, the Population Institute was a vocal supporter of Title X. And we still are. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. It is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families. Over the past 40 years, Title X family planning clinics have played a vital role in ensuring access to a broad range of family planning and related preventive health services for millions of low-income households.
Let’s be very clear about this. This isn’t about reducing government spending or debt. Study after study has shown that family planning programs reduce government spending over time. This is about denying women in the U.S., particularly low-income women, access to the family planning services and information they need and desire. And it’s morally wrong.
In times past, conservative ideologues were content to take comprehensive sexual education out of the classroom. Now they want to take away family planning services away from the women who are least able to afford them. On another front, they even want to use the tax code to prevent insurance companies from covering abortion services. Oh, and along the way, they want to limit “rape” exceptions to “forcible rape.”
It’s time for everyone to speak out, and speak out loudly, against this attack on women, women’s health, and women’s rights. Jodi Jackson, the Editor-in-Chief of RH Reality Check has written an outstanding blog on this issue. Please read it. And then call your representatives in Congress. Let your voice be heard.
Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President