There's been a lot of talk lately about "defunding" Planned Parenthood, which would mean, in practice, cutting off Medicaid grants and payments to the nation's leading reproductive health provider. While eliminating Medicaid would have a significant impact on Planned Parenthood — the organization claims that roughly 75 percent of its government money comes from Medicaid — that's not all there is to subsidizing women's health. The federal grant program Title X, established in 1970, has played a key role in providing family-planning funding to help low-income and uninsured patients receive the services they need. As these new graphics from the Guttmacher Institute show, Title X has critically shaped the state of reproductive health in America — and millions of women would be struggling to stay afloat without it.
By 2013, more than 20 million American women were in need of federally-funded contraception services, according to a new Guttmacher report released in July. The majority of these women had an income at least 250 percent below the federal poverty line, and 28 percent (or roughly 5.6 million) were uninsured.
The researchers found that "In the three most recent years, the overall number of women in need of publicly funded care rose by 5 percent— representing 918,000 additional women in need" since 2010. While there has been a slight decline in teenagers who need subsidized contraception services, the researchers noted that poor women with the lowest family incomes are increasingly in need of these services, whether to avoid getting pregnant or for the good of their reproductive health.
This is where Title X comes in. The federal grant program currently doles out funds to more than 4,000 health centers nationwide, serving five million clients (92 percent of whom are women) in all. That may only be a fraction of the 20 million American women in need of subsidized services for family planning, but as Guttmacher shows, the results are overwhelming.
For example, take California, America's most populous state. With more than one million clients served by Title X in 2013, the state averted more than a quarter-million unintended pregnancies. Guttmacher found that without Title X, the pregnancy and abortion rate would be an astonishing 64 percent higher.
In the Deep South, where women's health clinics run scarce and teen pregnancy remains high, a state like Alabama would see a 50 percent jump in its unintended pregnancy and abortion rates if it weren't for Title X. Arkansas, a state much smaller than California, would see an increase almost as high as the nation's largest state.
And for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the stats on his home state should be very telling. The governor canceled Louisiana's Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood earlier this month in response to the deceptive "sting" videos targeting the organization (keep in mind that no Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana provide abortions). Yet what may be more effective than ostracizing Planned Parenthood is expanding contraception services. Title X grants prevented 2,700 abortions in Louisiana in 2013, which could have increased the state's abortion numbers by roughly 28 percent.
States such as New York, Hawaii, and Oklahoma also saw significant impact in their rates of abortion and unintended pregnancies.
Guttmacher also introduced an interactive tool this week called the "Contraceptive Needs and Services County-Level Table Maker." It's designed to allow for a more personalized, in-depth look at family-planning needs. For example, I can look up not only the number of women who are in need of Title X services in my home county of Monmouth County, New Jersey, but also how many Title X health centers are located in the county. Each table provides overall state information, allowing users to see which counties are in the greatest need of reproductive health services.
Images: Guttmacher Institute