Title X grantees seek to preserve reproductive health care

Deborah Sale-Butler had just moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and voiceover, and was without health insurance. After abnormal pap smear results at a free clinic, she had a colposcopy, a procedure she described as “incredibly painful,” where a snip of cervical tissue was removed without anesthesia. She was advised to return for a second colposcopy, and after a three-hour stint in the waiting room, scared and shaken, she was told she would have to come back another day. She then called Planned Parenthood, who set her up with an appointment immediately, and confirmed that her cervical cells were precancerous and needed to be removed. Planned Parenthood arranged for her to have a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, or LEEP, performed at Good Samaritan Hospital, free of charge. There, doctors performed the surgery and biopsied the margins until they were certain that they had removed all the precancerous tissue.

Sale-Butler’s story is hardly unique. According to Serena Josel, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, 3 million people per year turn to Planned Parenthood for reproductive health care and family planning services.

“Until I was able to join SAG and get benefits, and later pay for private insurance, I stayed with Planned Parenthood for yearly gynecological exams,” says Sale-Butler, who has been cancer-free since her surgery in 2000.

But these services may not always be as accessible for low-income and uninsured individuals.

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney’s plans to improve the economy include saving a projected $300 million by eliminating Title X family planning funding, according to his website.

Title X was created as part of the Public Health Service Act to disburse government funding to health clinics—including Planned Parenthood—that provide “comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs.

“Health organizations use Title X funding to support the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services, outreach and education to low-income patients,” says Amy Moy, vice president of public affairs at California Family Health Council, the largest Title X grantee, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Moy says that CFHC is responsible for allocating Title X dollars to more than 350 California health centers that serve over 1 million people each year.

Republican President Richard Nixon signed Title X into law in 1970, and the measure received bipartisan support until recently, but Romney portrays Title X differently in his pledge to eliminate it.

“Title X subsidizes family planning programs that benefit abortion groups like Planned Parenthood,” according to Romney’s website.

Josel claims that it is not accurate to refer to Planned Parenthood as an “abortion group.”

“Abortion is a small part of the work that Planned Parenthood does,” says Josel. “Ninety-seven percent of the services Planned Parenthood health centers provide are preventive, including life-saving cancer screenings, contraception, and STD testing and treatment.”

Planned Parenthood could continue to operate without Title X funding, but the organization would be severely strained, according to Josel.

“Our ability to reach people with preventive care and information would be diminished,” says Josel. “We would be forced to dedicate more of our time and resources to fundraising efforts to make up for the new gap in funding as a result of the elimination of Title X.”

A spending bill for fiscal year 2013, approved by the House on July 18, has already eliminated Title X funding, as well as all funding for Planned Parenthood, “unless it certifies it will not provide abortions,” according to a press release from the House Appropriations Committee.

In sharp contrast, President Barack Obama’s budget requests $296.8 million for Title X in the 2013 fiscal year, continuing current stipulations that no Title X funds may be spent on abortions, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

“We are hopeful that whatever party controls Congress or is in the White House, we can find common ground on the importance of continuing to invest in family planning,” says Moy. “Doing so is good for women, families, communities, and sound fiscal policy.”

The Senate passed a continuing resolution on Sept. 22 to temporarily maintain funding at current levels through March 27, 2013, according to a press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Data from the Library of Congress states that the Title X family planning program was provided with $293.8 million during the 2012 fiscal year.

“CFHC will work with our partners throughout the state and the country to protect Title X funding, and access to quality sexual and reproductive health care for all in 2013 and beyond,” says Moy.