How Sequestration Will Affect Women

Angie Heuring

As the final hour of the “sequester” draws closer, the question being asked by millions of Americans is, “How will this affect me?” The mandated federal spending cuts, equaling $1.2 trillion, from defense and non-defense programs over the next ten years has yet to become a reality, but has left the American people questioning when the pain from the sequester will begin feeling real.

The bill, virtually affecting all areas of the country, will result in thousands of lost jobs, budget cuts to the nation’s public education system, and tremendous cutbacks in military defense. The Budget Control Act was adopted in 2011 and meant to be discussed before the March 1, 2013 implementation date, but that seems to be too late now. The sequester will trim the federal budget $85 billion in the 2013 fiscal year alone, affecting the lives of nearly every American family with across the board budget cuts.

Women make up one of the largest groups that will be affected by sequestration, primarily in low income or ethnic communities. In what ways will women be affected by the sequester? The sequester will cut $29 million from services for victims of domestic violence. This means that $20 million will be cut from the Violence Against Women Act, implemented in 1994 with programs that provide sexual assault and domestic violence prevention and intervention services. Another $9 million will be cut from the Family Violence Prevention Services Act, which offers funding to shelters for women and children who fall victim to domestic abuse. Funding to these programs is crucial for the betterment of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and budget cuts will not only affect services but also training programs for police officers, prosecutors, and victim advocates. In Idaho specifically, budget cuts to the STOP Violence Against Women Program will be $33,000 which will result in serving 100 less victims this year alone.

Budget cuts to women’s health take an even harder hit, $86 million will be cut from key programs that provide maternal, infant, reproductive, and preventative health services. The sequester will cut $4 million from the Safe Motherhood Initiative, a program that helps prevent pregnancy-related deaths, and $8 million from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, which provides screening services to low-income women. The women’s health programs that take the biggest hit from the sequester will be $24 million from Title X family planning and reproductive health services and $50 million from the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant.

Title X is the nation’s family planning program, and budget cuts would result in a cut back in staff and hours at clinics affecting low income women seeking family planning services. Low income women rely heavily on these centers for their reproductive health including preventative services such as breast cancer screenings, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptive services, and counseling and services regarding unplanned pregnancies. Title X provides women with high quality care while serving the needs of low income women. Budget cuts to these programs would contribute negatively to the status of women in this country. Advancement in women’s health through The Affordable Care Act, Title V and Title X, and Medicaid have all made a difference in millions of women’s lives through their services. Limiting these programs will only nullify the progress made in women’s health in recent years and attention gained from positive advancements for women as a whole.

 “Today’s report demonstrates just how devastating sequestration budget cuts would be for women and families across the country. With public health programs such as Title X taking as much as a $24 million cut, this could have a serious impact on women’s access to birth control and life saving health care, including cancer screenings. Congress can and should pass deficit reduction proposals that reduce our nation’s debt without undermining people’s access to basic health care services.”

– Press statement released by Planned Parenthood in response to the sequester

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