Must Read Now: Budget Cuts and Children

Apr 28 2011 Published by under Politics

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Today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine includes an editorial from George J. Annas and Wendy K. Mariner, preeminent bioethicists at the Boston University School of Public Health (home of the Fighting Terriers):


Women and Children Last - The Predictable Effects of Proposed Federal Funding Cuts. N Engl J Med 364:17, 2011  (10.1056/NEJMp1102915)

The authors examine proposed cuts in the House budget bill, including elimination of Title X clinics, federal funding of Planned Parenthood, 10% cuts to the supplementary nutrition program for women, infants, and children (WIC), and $50 million cuts from prenatal care for low-income women and health care for poor children. The whole piece runs less than 2 printed pages, including references, so you should read it all here. I have selected some quotes to make you click on through:

The amounts of money saved by these cuts would be trivial, but the damage to the health of low-income women and children — especially from the loss of direct federal funding for food and preventive health care — could be devastating. The proposed cuts are simply cruel.


Planned Parenthood clinics spend approximately 3% of their budgets on abortion services. (An antiabortion budget cutter could thus justify reducing the organization's federal funding by 3%, but no more — unless the cut was meant to be punitive.)


Two years ago, before the current debate over ACA funding, a Guttmacher Institute study concluded that eliminating Title X clinics (and Medicaid funding for contraception counseling) would result in an additional 860,000 unintended pregnancies and 810,000 abortions per year among low-income women. The study also found that from a strictly budgetary perspective, helping low-income women prevent pregnancies saved almost $4 for every $1 spent. Rational policymakers who oppose abortion and support fiscal restraint should thus also support current federal efforts to reduce unplanned pregnancies.


So these proposed cuts are trivial, cruel, and punitive. They primarily affect a group with little political influence, poor women and their children, but they allow some politicians to strut "pro-life" credentials. Pro-life? Cutting services to prevent pregnancy will result in more pregnancies, but once pregnant, prenatal care and postnatal support will also be less available for these low-income women and their children.

Pro-life, my ass.

4 responses so far

  • becca says:

    I'm somewhat disturbed that someone thinks 3% of Planned Parenthood's budget is abortions.
    First, it's illegal for PP (or anyone else) to use their federal funds for abortions. All arguments to the contrary rely on two presumptions 1) accounting tricks can hide a multitude of sins and 2) money is fungible. This may be true, but I only accept these arguments for those that are fighting with equal intensity against government funding of any faith based group. If you are happy with the government funding poverty programs run by churches, thinking that none of that money will ever be used for evangelical aims, you cannot object to government funding of PP.

    Second, PP's income is roughly 15% for abortions, and abortions represent 3% of the services they perform. One could actually make a reasonable argument that abortions are therefore subsidizing other services.

    All that noted, the proposed cuts are trivial, cruel and punitive.

    • WhizBANG! says:

      I don't understand how they can propose a policy guaranteed to increase the number of pregnancies and children born into poverty, and yet cut the very services those families need. Perhaps they want a more Dickensian world or something.

      I object to my tax dollars supporting a bunch of stuff the government does. So could I withhold my taxes unless I received a guarantee that they would not be used to directly support those programs or to offset other costs of government so other tax dollars could be used for things I object to? Somehow, I think not...

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