IF ABORTION OPPONENTS could prevent more than half a million abortions each year, wouldn't you think they would enthusiastically undertake the effort? Unfortunately, opposition to abortion too often spills over into opposition to contraception. As a result, a federal family planning program that has worked well and without controversy for a quarter-century has come under fire from abortion opponents in Congress.
Title X of the Public Health Service Act is the nation's major program for reducing unintended pregnancies by providing contraceptives and family planning information to low-income women. Since it was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970, it has enjoyed bipartisan support. The funding requires providers to offer a range of contraceptive methods, including natural family planning. It also prohibits coercion and requires that other reproductive health care, such as cancer screenings, also be available. It does not fund abortions.
This public subsidy is estimated to prevent some 1.2 million unintended pregnancies a year -- which means that it also removes the demand for some 516,000 abortions annually. Estimates suggest that each tax dollar spent for family planning services saves $4.40 in health care and welfare costs. One study found that preventing unintended pregnancies can save the health care system between $9,000 and $14,000 per woman over five years.
Even so, supporters of Title X were blindsided in Congress last year by attempts to fold the funding into block grants and shift much of it to other programs. That attack failed, but opponents are trying again with attempts to impose gag orders and other restrictions. As Gloria Feldt, the incoming president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said yesterday, "Without Title family planning, the choice between this month's pills and this month's bills will be a serious concern to millions of Americans."
We repeat: Family planning programs prevent abortions. If Congress is serious about making abortion rare, it should expand Title X, not hamstring it.
Pub Date: 6/07/96
Attack on family planning; Title X: Congress faces fight over popular, effective family planning program.