Late last week, President Trump reversed an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from withholding Title X family planning funds from reproductive health care providers, like Planned Parenthood, that perform abortions. The new legislation is unnecessary because the Hyde Amendment already prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion except in extreme, rare circumstances.
Rather than stop abortion, Trump’s latest move will imperil women’s health by eliminating access to affordable, quality care. Every year, Title X grants fund reproductive health and family-planning care for over four million people in the U.S. According to Planned Parenthood, 80 percent of women who rely on Title X funding are well below the poverty line, 21 percent are Black and 32 percent are Latina.
Title X can provide subsidies for people who may not qualify for Medicaid, yet otherwise could not afford to pay for essential health care services, like annual well-woman check-ups, contraceptives, life-saving cancer screenings, HPV vaccines and treatment and detection of sexually transmitted infections.
Now, millions may no longer be able to afford their reproductive health visits, which often lead to more general check-ups and referrals. For many of these women, their reproductive health care provider is their only source of health care. Cutting funding to these health centers means that those women likely will lose access to care that helps prevent and treat conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. For Black women especially, we will see worse health outcomes as a result of the president signing this legislation.
This latest measure is not only bad public health policy, it is politically unpopular. A recent Fox News poll found that Planned Parenthood, the target of funding cuts, has a 57 percent approval rating, much higher than the president (currently 40 percent). Another poll found that 58 percent of all voters (and 48 percent of Trump voters) support federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
Despite widespread support for Planned Parenthood and a huge need for affordable health care, states now can move forward with cuts. In the past, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin have all made efforts to “defund” Planned Parenthood.
According to a report issued by the Black Women’s Roundtable last month, affordable health care is among the top three issues of concern to Black women. The report finds that Black women are disproportionately impacted among those living in states that did not accept Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, Black women face serious health disparities, including heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality. Over a third of Black women have no paid sick days at work, and the wage gap for Black women ranges from 46 cents to 69 cents on the dollar, depending on the state where they live.
Politicians in Washington and across the country have made it clear that they are willing to sacrifice women’s health in order to restrict women’s access to contraception and abortion. Many of these same politicians are also trying to dismantle the ACA, cut school lunch, incarcerate Black people, discriminate against LGBTQ people and tear apart immigrant families.
We will not, must not, stand by while cynical politicians — in Congress, the White House and state capitals — play politics with women’s health, lives and rights. We must continue to organize in our communities. We have to hold elected officials accountable. We will not stop until all women have access to reproductive health care services, including abortion access. We will not rest until all women are able to decide whether and when to have children and have the resources to raise our families with dignity.
La’Tasha D. Mayes is the founder and executive director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice.