Population Matters

The War on Women

March 8th, 2011

Today is the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s day and it should be an opportunity to celebrate how far women have come in the last 100 years.   We should  remember that on the first International Women’s Day women in most countries around the world, including the United States, could not vote and employers often refused to hire someone just because she was a woman. We have come so far since 1911. Unfortunately on this 100th International Women’s Day I am having a hard time thinking about all of the successes that we have seen in the last 100 years because right now all I can see is that the newly-elected U.S. House of Representatives appears to have declared a war on women.

The House leadership has stated that cutting the budget was their number one priority, however,  the House-passed budget shows that cuts aren’t as important, perhaps, as making ideological policy. The House budget appears to be the opening salvo in a broader war on women.

The House-passed budget would defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate all Title X funding. Title X is the federal family planning program that gives  low-income women access to birth control, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and testing for STIs including HIV.  The cuts in Title X and the defunding of Planned Parenthood will leave many women without the ability to access reproductive health services. Planned Parenthood alone serves 1 in 5 women at some point during their lives. Without this resource where will women turn? The Guttmacher Institute estimates that for every dollar invested in Title X for birth control taxpayers save just under $4 in Medicaid costs for mother and baby just in the first year. What will be the cost to women for not having access to birth control, early cervical and breast cancer screenings, or STI and HIV testing?

On top of this the House budget will also cut essential services to low income women who decide to have children. The bill will cut $50 million from programs that provide prenatal health care to 2.5 million low income women and health care to 31 million children annually. It also cuts the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (also known as WIC) by 10%. This is a successful program that helps ensure healthier mothers and infants by providing care to low income women, new mothers and infants. Millions of women and infants rely on this program to ensure they are healthy. Where are these women going to turn to for help?

This attack on women isn’t only aimed at women in the U.S., but also women around the world.  The House-passed budget would also slash funding for international family planning and reproductive health care at a time when it is imperative that we increase our support. Right now there are 215 million women in the world who would like to avoid a pregnancy but do not have access to modern contraceptives. Providing those women with modern contraceptives helps combat maternal mortality, gives women control over their lives, and fights poverty.

The House budget would also reinstate the “global gag rule” which prevents the U.S. from funding any group internationally that even talks about abortion, severely hurting family planning groups that work overseas.

While the House leadership is talking about cutting the budget they need to understand that cutting because every dollar spent on international family planning more than pays for itself in terms of reduced costs for health care and other social services.  Meaning that by reducing the amount of money going to family planning governments would need more money to cover health and education costs.

While  the Senate will reject many of these proposed changes, conservatives and tea party supporters have made it  clear that they will use any vehicle to move forward their war on women. It is imperative that everyone who is outraged by this attack make their voice heard. So I am celebrating this 100th International Women’s Day by making my voice heard and telling Congress that I support women and women’s reproductive health in the U.S. and abroad.

To show your support for U.S. programs you can sign Planned Parenthood’s open letter to Congress telling Congress that we will fight to make sure women have access to the vital services that are provided by Planned Parenthood: http://www.istandwithplannedparenthood.com.

To show your support for international family planning services, you can sign the Million for a Billion petition, which asks Congress to make sure women internationally have access to family planning by increasing U.S. funding for family planning and reproductive health programs to $1Billion: http://www.millionforabillion.com.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

One Response to “The War on Women”

  1. Would You Like a Side of Preaching With That? -- Population Matters Says:

    […] of such an event.”  It’s no wonder that women’s groups are calling these efforts a “war on women.”  It […]

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