Twenty million U.S. women were in need of publicly funded family planning services in 2013, an increase of 5%, or 918,000 women, between 2010 and 2013, according to “Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2013 Update” by Jennifer Frost et al. The growth in need over this period was driven entirely by an increase in the number of poor and low-income adult women in need of services. Women were considered “in need” if they were adults with a family income below 250% of the federal poverty level, or teens regardless of family income, and were sexually active, able to conceive and did not want to become pregnant.
Publicly funded family planning providers served 8.3 million women in 2013. Their services helped women prevent two million unintended pregnancies, one million of which would have resulted in unplanned births and 693,000 in abortions. In the absence of these services, rates of unintended pregnancies, unplanned births and abortions in the United States would have all been 60% higher.
“From 2010 to 2013, even as the number of women in need grew by 5%, Congress slashed funding for the Title X national family planning program by 12%. And now, many in Congress are proposing to cut funding even further, or eliminate it altogether. Cutting funding when the need for these vital services is increasing simply makes no sense,” said Kinsey Hasstedt, Guttmacher Institute public policy associate. “This program isn’t just good public health policy, it results in considerable savings. By helping women avoid pregnancies they do not want, the services Title X supports save $7 for every public dollar invested.”
Title X-supported family planning clinics alone served 4.1 million women in 2013 (clinics funded through the program served 4.6 million clients in total, including men and women and clients served in U.S. territories). The services provided by Title X-funded clinics allowed women to avoid one million unintended pregnancies, 501,000 unplanned births and 345,000 abortions. Without the contraceptive services provided at these clinics, levels of unintended pregnancy and teen pregnancy would be 30% higher.
Although the provision of contraceptive methods and counseling remains at the heart of family planning services, these visits comprise a broader package of care that includes preconception health care and counseling, STI testing and treatment, vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) and Pap tests. In 2010, the services provided within the Title X network prevented 87,000 preterm or low-birth-weight births, 62,000 STIs and 2,000 cases of cervical cancer.
“Publicly funded family planning services are essential to women’s health,” says Hasstedt. “Policymakers at all levels should be doing everything they can to support this critical safety net, which is vital to the health and well-being of millions of women and their families.”