Opinion|The G.O.P.’s War on Women’s Health Gets Results
The Trump administration’s recent efforts to undermine the nation’s Title X family planning program are already having their intended effect, making it harder for women’s health clinics to stay afloat and for patients to afford birth control and other services.
Three weeks after Planned Parenthood was effectively forced out of the Title X program, the group has announced that two of its clinics in the Cincinnati area will close this month — a fate that Planned Parenthood officials say was accelerated by the administration’s changes to Title X. Those changes include barring clinics that perform or even refer patients for abortions from receiving federal family planning dollars unless they jump through a near-impossible series of hoops.
The two Planned Parenthood clinics that are closing, which had received sporadic Title X funding over the years, were already in a precarious financial position. That’s because this is hardly the first time that politicians have waged war on Planned Parenthood or on reproductive health care in general. When he was Ohio’s governor, John Kasich was especially fervent in that mission, signing more than a dozen bills targeting women’s health care. Among them was a major rollback of public financing for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. By 2018, Ohio ranked 48th in the nation for publicly funded women’s health services. Mike DeWine, the state’s new Republican governor, has picked up where his predecessor left off, signing a bill this year that would ban abortions at as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
Though many of these measures have been blocked by the courts, they’ve had a real effect: Clinic operations have been thrown into chaos. The number of facilities where women can get an abortion in the state has dropped by roughly half since 2011. And soon Ohio women will have two fewer places to get an affordable birth control injection or to get tested for sexually transmitted infections.
Most of this damage has been done in the name of ending abortion in America, which is a folly of a mission, in any case. It isn’t possible to stop women from getting abortions; it’s only possible to stop them from getting legally procured ones.
But these new Title X changes make clear that these politicians have always been trying to do more than prevent abortions. These are attacks on women’s ability to control if and when they get pregnant. On their health and well-being. On some of the most vulnerable members of society.
As it happens, neither of the Ohio clinics that are about to close — one of which has served the community since 1977 — provides abortions. But they do help thousands of women prevent unwanted pregnancies — the best way to avoid needing an abortion.
Many other clinics around the country are also struggling in the wake of the Title X changes. Some have gotten creative about making up their lost funding streams and access to discounted contraceptives by, for instance, leaning more heavily on individual donations. “This year it’s really a call to action,” Lisa Leach, the executive director at the Lovering Health Center in Greenland, N.H., told Politico. “We’re asking for donors, for example, to fund five IUDs.”
The resourcefulness of these clinics is commendable. But it seems only a matter of time before more facilities around the country, especially those in states with leaders hostile to reproductive rights, buckle under the weight of relentless attacks. And women will suffer.