A good week for the nation's family planning program

A good week for the nation's family planning program
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The gold standard. A cornerstone. A bedrock. A true public health success story. 

These are all ways we describe the federal program that provides contraception, cancer screenings, STD treatment and other preventive health services to 4 million people every year. It’s also known as the Title X family planning program, created nearly 50 years ago to ensure access to modern methods of birth control for poor and low-income people.

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For a program that does so much good, it too often gets mired in partisan politics that we don’t get many chances to celebrate its victories. But, this week is different.

We were elated to see the appropriators in the House led by Reps. Chairs Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroMigrants in US border detention centers won't receive flu vaccine Lawmakers point to entitlements when asked about deficits House bill would make World Cup funds contingent on equal pay MORE (D-Conn.) and Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid MORE (D-N.Y.), recommend a $113.5 million increase for Title X — the biggest funding boost in the history of the program, at a time when we need it the most.

Because until now, as need for subsidized family planning care has grown, resources provided by Congress have shrunk. Since 2010, the Title X program has endured millions in cuts. And the consequences have been serious — health centers that use Title X funding to provide care to poor and low-income people have been forced to lay off staff, offer fewer services to patients and even close their doors in the wake of decreased funding. And perhaps the most troubling impact of cuts is that since 2010, we’ve lost over a million patients in the program — with little evidence these women and men are seeking care in other settings. That’s akin to losing as many people as live in Austin, Texas.

When the program is well-funded, more people can get the care they need from trusted providers. In fact, 6-in-10 women who receive contraceptive care in Title X setting say a Title X-supported health center is their primary source of care in the past year. When health centers are able to support patients, those people, their families and their communities have better health outcomes.

The proposed $400 million funding increase comes at a time when attacks from the Trump administration to the Title X program are unrelenting — we are currently fighting back against a Title X rule that will ruin the program as we know it.

Just last week, the White House also released a draft version of a final health care refusal rule that aims to significantly expand the ability of health care entities and individuals to withhold treatment, counseling, or medical information based on their religious (and even non-religious beliefs), and would limit the ability of health providers to protect patients from staff who would pose dangerous obstacles to necessary health care. And to add insult to injury, the Department of Justice just asked a federal appeals court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, which would leave 21 million without access to affordable health care.

This week’s funding victory was due in part to the tireless efforts of reproductive health activists — NFPRHA’s nearly 900 members, Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute, as part of a wide coalition of reproductive health, rights and justice organizations — advocating strongly in congressional meetings and letters to Congress that ultimately compelled House legislators to act. We know our work is not done and neither is Congress'. The Senate must echo the House’s support for a funding boost when they take up the funding bills later this year. Americans in every state rely on it.

Clare Coleman is the president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association; its nearly 900 members serve more than 93 percent of Title X patients.