It’s estimated that the potential savings from averting all unintended pregnancies would be in the ballpark of $15 billion. That’s a far cry from the $2.37 billion America spent on publicly funded family planning in 2010 (75 percent in Medicaid expenditures, 10 percent in Title X, and the rest in state appropriations, block grants). In 2013, those programs served 8.3 million women—only 42 percent of those in need of publicly funded care.
Despite these savings, the Republican candidates contend that family-planning spending is off the charts, but that is certainly not the case. Between 2010 and 2013, Congress reduced Title X spending by 12 percent, while the number of women in need of publicly funded family planning services grew by five percent, or a total of 918,000 women. When accounting for inflation, today’s Title X budget is two-thirds of what it was in 1980. In 2015, Congress appropriated $286.5 million for Title X (down from $317 million in 2010), but if funding had kept pace with inflation over the past three decades, the current level would be in the ballpark of $850 million. In addition to the drop in funding, state regulations on Title X funding have altered the reach of the program. Today Ohio, Michigan, and Texas have tiered funding systems that prioritize state health-department clinics and crisis pregnancy centers, leaving little to no money for the very family-planning clinics the funding was originally intended. Kansas and Oklahoma prohibit private family-planning providers from receiving state and federal funding and many other states prevent organizations that also provide abortion services from receiving funding.
In recent weeks, GOP lawmakers and candidates have rejected the accusation that they are waging a “war on women” and have said they don’t intend to entirely defund women’s health care—just the organization they don’t believe is in the business of delivering it. The funds currently going to Planned Parenthood, they’ve suggested, can simply be redirected to other organizations that could provide the same services. But there are not enough other providers to take on the patients currently being served by Planned Parenthood, and defunding the organization would place an “untenable stress” on the community health centers conservative lawmakers say could manage the overflow. To make matters worse, much of the funding for those centers is granted through the Affordable Care Act, which—after 55 failed repeal votes—Republicans are still eager to overturn. The fact that abortion represents a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s total services, and that federal law already prohibits taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortion in nearly all circumstances, has not deterred conservatives in their quest to shutter the organization.
But there’s reason to conclude that the GOP actually is interested in slashing women’s health funding generally, not just for places like Planned Parenthood. In 2011 and again in June of this year, the party proposed eliminating Title X. In 2013, GOP lawmakers shut down the federal government in opposition to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement.