The state Senate Republican majority has proposed sweeping cuts to family planning in its budget this year. It’s an ideological effort that endangers women and costs taxpayers.
ACCESS to affordable family planning should be a nonpartisan issue. Family planning saves lives, reduces abortions and saves money for governments, health-care providers, women and their families.
Today’s public — men and women, Democrat and Republican, religious and nonreligious — overwhelmingly supports free contraceptive coverage. So why are we still debating whether or not women should have access to affordable birth control?
The short answer: ideology.
Efforts at the national level to end funding for essential health care for women is well known, particularly in the repeated calls by congressional Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood. But as Congress remains entrenched in bickering, conservative state legislatures are not only trying, but succeeding in rolling back access to basic health care for women — including access to family planning. The consequences of this have been dire. After Texas imposed cuts to family planning in 2011, it became the national leader in maternal mortality.
It might be surprising to many that similar efforts to cut family planning are being made right here in Washington. The state Senate Republican majority has proposed sweeping cuts to family planning in its budget this year.
To be clear, the majority of senators on both sides of the aisle would typically not support this. But with a slim, one-vote majority, Senate Republicans couldn’t afford to lose a single vote for their budget, which seeks to raise billions in a new state property tax for K-12 education.
So in the 11th hour of that debate an amendment passed along party lines to sweep up $1.7 million in funding for family planning in order to placate the very far right of the Republican caucus. There are three main reasons this is bad for both women and men in Washington:
• This endangers women, especially women of color and those with low incomes. Despite being sold as a way to increase funding for cervical and breast cancer screenings, this effort shamefully pits family planning against women’s cancer prevention and care. Reduced access to affordable family planning is linked to increases in infant and maternal mortality, premature births, teen and adult unintended pregnancy, and abortions. Because infant and maternal mortality and premature births are significantly higher among women of color and those with low incomes, this is a serious racial- and social-justice issue as well.
• This costs taxpayers. For every $1 cut from family planning, the state incurs about $7 more in unplanned pregnancy service costs. Access to family planning for low-income women helped save $269.9 million of federal and state money in Washington in 2010 alone.
• This is D.C.-style politics that doesn’t belong in this Washington. Not only does this amendment echo far-right national ideologues, the amendment ties state funding to the federal dollars we receive that are set aside for family planning. That means any cut under the Republican-controlled Congress in D.C. will trigger further cuts at the state level too.
With the budget debate in Olympia focused mostly on education and taxes, this move by Senate Republicans has gone relatively unnoticed. But if the amendment makes it through the final budget process, thousands of women in Washington will struggle to get access to a basic health-care service that improves not only their health but also the quality of life for themselves and their families.
A recent study found that 99 percent of women have used birth control at some point in their lives. That means conservative women, liberal women and anyone in between see birth control as a basic health-care necessity. Any effort at this point by a very few to limit access to this basic need is unconscionable, out of step with women and families and founded in nothing but fringe ideology.
If you are interested in this issue, contact your legislators online: leg.wa.gov, or call 1-800-562-6000.