Shortening Title X grants limits women from making their own decisions

Shortening Title X grants limits women from making their own decisions
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The administration announced yesterday a shortened Title X funding period for grants awarded to organizations that provide high quality affordable contraceptive services, preventive screenings and health education to low-income individuals. Grants will last just seven months. Previously, Title X grants lasted three years, allowed clinics to adequately plan and provide optimal preventive health-care services to those who need it most — low income and uninsured women.

This unusually short grant period certainly calls into question who will receive Title X funds beyond March 2019, and suggests that low-income and uninsured women’s access to contraception could be further compromised.

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The administration recently proposed a domestic gag rule that if enacted would force many high quality Title X providers out of the program, leaving the women who depend on them with far less access to the contraception they need.

Further, shortening the grant award period poses unnecessary bureaucratic challenges to health centers that already operate on limited resources and serve the most vulnerable among us. The additional layers of reporting and reapplying for funds in just a few short months will diminish the capacity of these health centers to provide the quality care their patients deserve.

The uncertainty in sustained funding also compromises providers’ ability to establish long-term relationships with their patients, which we know is so important to patient health over time.

The immediate impacts are stark. Imagine if your health-care provider told you that you may not be able to come back for necessary follow up care a few months later because they were uncertain about whether they would have funds from the program to cover your care? And then imagine that there isn’t an alternate health-care site you can afford within an hour or two of where you live.

That is already the case for millions of women in need of publicly funded contraception and this administrative move, which is largely believed to be motivated by ideology, will only exacerbate the challenges that these women face in accessing the health-care they deserve

Across the country, women’s lives have been changed as a result of being able to access free and low cost contraception. Still, more than 19 million women in need of publicly funded contraception live in contraceptive deserts. Contraceptive deserts are counties in which there is no reasonable access to a public clinic that offers the full range of contraceptive methods. More than half of counties in the United States already lack reasonable access to the full range of contraceptive options.

At Power to Decide, we work to ensure that everybody who isn’t seeking pregnancy has access to the contraceptive method right for them so that they can decide if, when and under what circumstances to get pregnant. For women in need of access to the full range of contraceptive methods and quality contraceptive counseling, these health centers that offer free or low-cost services make all the difference.

The Title X program, as it is presently administered, is aligned to these values and is highly effective. It has helped to contribute to the recent declines in unplanned pregnancy, which is now at a 30-year lowThe decision to shorten the timeline flies in the face of evidence and would weaken the Title X program, reverse the progress we have made and cause harm to the most vulnerable among us.

We remain committed to fight for women and their continued progress. We call upon the administration to stop playing politics with women’s health and instead make decisions that support rather than undermine women’s ability to get the care they need and deserve.

Ginny Ehrlich is the CEO of Power to Decide, the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy, which is is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that works to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to decide if, when and under what circumstances to get pregnant.