Friday, April 17, 2009

Protect Family Planning Funding


By Alison Mondi

In a time of economic uncertainty, unnerving budget deficits, and ever-worsening employment and revenue figures, it is understandable that the legislators and agency heads charged with setting the state’s budget for the next two years are inclined to reach for the hatchet.

And yes, there are going to have to be cuts, and many of those cuts will have very real repercussions for those most in need. But dwindling state revenues, coupled with more people than ever in need of assistance, demands precise and thoughtful budget trimming.

That is why the state Senate and House budget proposals are so alarming. Among the slew of heartbreaking cuts, the Senate budget calls for a $1 million reduction in state spending on funding for birth control and other family planning services for low-income and at-risk women, which is 10 percent of the total program. The House budget is even worse; it proposes a 10 percent cut for the first year of the two-year budget, and then calls for the complete elimination of family planning funding in the second year. That means ending reproductive health care services for over 20,000 Washington women, and putting up to an additional $19 million in pregnancy care costs on the state’s tab. This drastic cut is a gamble with women’s health – and the state’s bottom line – that we simply cannot afford.