It appears that Ravalli County commissioners are continuing the Montana Republican Party’s war against poor women, threatening, as the Ravalli Republic reports, to not accept federal Title X money for no other reason than their ideological opposition to helping low-income people lead healthier and more productive lives.
The “reasoning” for the proposed move comes from Ravalli County Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher, who offered his personal objection to private reproductive care for minors and emergency contraception as reasons to refuse the federal money. He also fascinatingly argued that pregnancy is not a “public health issue.”
Perhaps Mr. Kanewisher should visit a public school sometime. Unplanned pregnancies among young people are a public health crisis–in the short term for young people who experience unplanned pregnancies, and in the long term for their children, who often experience extreme poverty.
The decision would not only be cruel, but counter-productive. Limiting access to family planning services has one clear impact, increased abortions, as Laura Bassett notes:
Ironically, cutting Title X funding might actually increase the incidence of abortions. Family planning services at Title X-funded clinics helped prevent 973,00 unintended pregnancies in 2008, which would have caused more that 400,000 unintended births and more than 400,000 abortions, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute released that year.
Title X is a forty year old program which provides education and health services for low-income Americans, including cancer screening, HIV prevention and education, and pregnancy counseling, among other critical services. That Republicans nationally and locally would attack this successful, cost-effective program which improves public health demonstrates just how far out of touch with American values and common sense they’ve become.
And of course, it’s worth noting that “by law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”
The proposed inaction by the Ravalli County commissioners, of course, is part of an ongoing war being waged on poor Montanans, especially women, by the Republican Party. Following a legislative session characterized by increasingly hostile language and even more damaging policy directed at the poor, it’s little wonder that the Ravalli commissioners are acting in this fashion.
Montana Republicans certainly have fascinating ideas about personal responsibility and public health. On one hand, they seem eager to excuse and defend Exxon, a multinational corporation who has polluted one of Montana’s great rivers and jeopardized health while on the other, they are willing to condemn and abandon young people who simply need access to low-cost reproductive health care.
Shame on them.