Everyday I’m hearing from panicked women regarding access to birth control and health services. “What’s gonna happen if they take away the ACA” and “Should I stock up on birth control”? Not so fast. The process of repealing the ACA is not that easy. For now, no matter what side you stand on in this politically charged world, it’s imperative that you understand some of the programs that are out there and what they provide for women. I see article after article about women’s health so let’s break this down. My goal is not to make a political statement, but to talk about the programs that affect women’s healthcare greatly.
What is Title X (not X because of female, but because of the number 10)?
Title X is the only federally funded program for family planning and preventative services. It started in 1970 to help women gain access to family planning services. In 2015, Title X clinics served about 4.1 million clients and 3569 providers nationwide were part of the program. That’s no small number and remember that a lot of these women are at or below the poverty line, meaning that these programs help those women who can’t afford healthcare. Title X gives families access to yearly examinations, Pap smears, contraceptive services and supplies, STI testing, pregnancy testing, screening for breast cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes, and infertility services. Basically all services for general healthcare.
There are many rules and regulations regarding how the money can be used and which clinics get money. The money cannot be used for abortions, or any care related to abortions. Healthcare clinics that provide abortions can get federal money to use for other services, but not abortions. So, for example, Planned Parenthood receives about 60 million dollars each year from Title X funds, but $0 can be used for abortion services. There is a rigorous process, and checklists, and data gathering each year from the government to make sure this rule is followed. Since it started, Title X has proven to be awesome and effective. Services provided by Title X centers prevented 527,000 unplanned births and 363,000 abortions in 2012.
The old saying “one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” proves time and time again to be true. The Institute of Medicine was part of the conversations with the federal government. For them, the ultimate goal of family planning is “helping people have children when they want to and avoid conception when they do not—is a critical social and public health goal”. When women get pregnant when they want, this reduces unwanted pregnancies, pregnancy complications, and abortions.
The Future of Title X
The good thing is that Title X is not on the chopping block, yet. It is favored by most Americans because of all the above benefits. However, the new administration has vowed to attack abortions from all angles, including all clinics that provide abortions. Title X funds can’t be used for abortions, but there are some clinics and providers that do abortions and get Title X funds. If the goal is to defund these clinics with any means necessary, then Title X may not be left unscathed. Time will tell.
As for the question of whether Title X is related to the Affordable Care Act, the short answer is no. They are not related. The ACA was initiated recently, whereas Title X dates back to 1970. So, even with repeal of the ACA, Title X should not be affected.
Dr. Syal has been in private practice for 14 years. She is interested in how the internet plays a role in health information and how patient’s consume this information.