At a time when an alarming number of Americans are unemployed and facing financial hardship, many people rely on government aid to supplement their incomes — or lack thereof. The Republican controlled House, however, seems apt to balance the budget on the backs of low-income Americans — specifically women and children. On Feb. 18, an amendment to an important budget bill was passed 240-185 that would end federal funding for many service organizations, including Planned Parenthood.

The amendment’s sponsor Rep. Mike Pence (R—Ind.) has been a longtime opponent of Planned Parenthood. According to the Detroit News, Michigan Planned Parenthood clinics alone will lose $5 million in funding if the bill passes through the Senate. This amendment, along with other parts of the bill, stems from the simple fact that $50 billion of cuts need to be made. But taking away necessary programs and funding aimed to help women and the poor is irresponsible.

The amendment is largely an anti-abortion measure. Planned Parenthood is one of the major providers of abortions in the nation — though they can’t use federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk. The organization is constantly targeted by conservatives, including Fox News host Glenn Beck. Critics don’t realize that an overwhelming majority of Planned Parenthood’s patients visit clinics for reasons other than family planning. These include HIV counseling, sexual identity counseling, sexually transmitted disease testing and cancer screening. These are necessary services that go beyond party politics.

Equally troubling is the plan for this bill to slash 10 percent of funding for Woman, Infant, and Children — a service of the United States Department of Agriculture that provides food, health care referrals and nutrition information to low-income mothers. A Dec. 2003 University of California Los Angeles study showed that pregnant women who participate in WIC have healthier babies than those who do not. This program, vital to the survival and nutrition of many American families, is set to lose $747 million. While a 10-percent cut seems insignificant, it would do great damage to the women who rely on WIC to provide essentials for their children.

Most patients of Planned Parenthood and WIC recipients are poor women. Cutting them off from effective and inexpensive medical care and financial support isn’t the right way for Congress to go about balancing the budget. There are other areas of the budget that should have been brought to the bargaining table first. The enormous Department of Defense budget, the Bush-era tax incentives and cuts for the wealthy should also be examined as possible areas to reduce spending and generate revenue before welfare programs are completely eliminated.

There is no doubt that cuts and sacrifices need to be made by all Americans as the nation’s budget woes are addressed. But it’s important that those sacrifices are distributed equally throughout every sector of the population.

Many Republicans may be opposed to abortion, but using personal morals to make budget cuts at the expense of those less fortunate is unacceptable. The general well-being of low-income Americans shouldn’t be a bargaining chip in a political game.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.