Republicans are at it again -- forcing their social agenda onto the country. Friday, they threatened a government shutdown if Planned Parenthood was not banned from receiving Title X funding, a program for women's health services, in the final 2011 government spending bill.
It is unconscionable that America was being held hostage so that a select few can arbitrarily decide who can and cannot provide critical preventative health services for our mothers, sisters and daughters.
Unfortunately, this continues a dangerous trend that started when Republicans took control of the House in January. At every step, opportunities to increase women's access to health care have been met with bills and amendments that would do the opposite.
In this constant push to cut access, one has to wonder if Republicans have really thought through all the effects of their actions. If they have, why aren't they proposing alternatives that would fill the gaps created by ending the programs they are attacking?
Specifically, where are the proposals that would replace the Title X services that Planned Parenthood clinics provide to nearly five million Americans who rely on them for preventative health care?
Many Republicans claim their heartless measures to cut Title X for Planned Parenthood are to ensure that no federal funding goes toward abortions. They claim this despite knowing that federal laws already restrict the use of federal funds for elective abortions and cutting this funding would shut down clinics helping millions of women in some of our most underserved neighborhoods.
More than 95 percent of the work these clinics do is not related to abortion. Rather, it is important preventative health services that every American woman desperately needs and help avoid expensive treatment for costly preventable diseases, saving U.S. taxpayers money.
Despite proof that not a penny of federal funding goes toward abortion services, House Republicans have continued to attack these clinics -- offering absolutely no alternative should funding be rescinded.
Similarly, where are alternative proposals that would stop the close to one million unintended pregnancies that Title X services help prevent each year? Through education and family planning for millions of American women, clinics like those run by Planned Parenthood prevent more than 800,000 unintended births and abortions annually.In 1970, then-Rep. George H.W. Bush said when proposing Title X:
"We need to make population and family planning household words. We need to take sensationalism out of this topic so that it can no longer be used by militants who have no real knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program but, rather are using it as a political steppingstone. If family planning is anything, it is a public health matter."
If Republicans were listening to their own party leaders, they would be proposing an expansion of this critical program -- not attacking it for political gain.
Finally, where are the proposals that would prohibit health insurance companies from charging women more than men if Republicans are successful in repealing the health care reform bill? Statistics now show that women are often charged significantly more than men for the same insurance policy. In some cases, more than 150 percent more.
But under the new health care reform law, beginning in 2014, insurers will no longer be able to do this. The reform also allows women to receive critical, money-saving preventive services, including mammograms, breast feeding support services and screenings for cancer and other diseases, without having to co-pay.
Yet, Republicans continue their attempts to repeal and defund the new law.
Title X funds provide an array of confidential preventive health services. In 2009 alone, under this critical program, Americans received 2.2 million Pap tests, more than 2.3 million breast exams and 6.9 million STD tests. Title X saves the U.S. taxpayer at least $3.4 billion in health care costs annually, according to Guttmacher Institute estimates.
If Republicans plan to defund one of the largest providers of these services, they need to suggest an alternative. They shouldn't hold the country hostage on an 11th-hour demand -- threatening our economy and the jobs we sorely need.
Follow Rep. Mike Honda on Twitter: www.twitter.com/repmikehonda