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Fed Budget Battle Threatens Preventive Care for AZ Women and Families

February 24, 2011

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Some 40,000 Arizonans could lose preventive health care under federal spending cuts approved by the U.S. House. The proposed elimination of the Title X family planning program would affect more than 30 health centers in nine Arizona counties, plus other contracted providers.

Karen Ford Manza is director of the private, nonprofit Arizona Family Planning Council. She says preventive health care and early treatment are far less costly than the alternatives.

"We know that a lot of birth defects can be prevented if women are receiving good prenatal care. And certainly we know that a lot of couples face unintended pregnancy when they can't afford family planning services."

Manza says Title X was created as an anti-poverty program, signed into law by President Nixon and supported through the years by both Republicans and Democrats. Services are provided on a sliding-fee scale.

Lawmakers in Congress seeking to end Title X are portraying their efforts as a way to prevent federal funding of abortion. But Manza says that mis-characterizes the family planning program.

"Title X has never provided funding for abortion. We are really focused on preventing the need for abortion and trying to keep families healthy and focused on their reproductive life plan."

For many women and their families, Manza says the family planning centers are the primary source for health care. Along with contraceptives, the centers provide education, counseling and a variety of preventive services.

"Annual health screenings, preventive health screenings. We're the largest HIV testing network in the state of Arizona. We do diabetes screening, heart condition screening."

Manza says 60 percent of Arizona patients are not receiving health care anywhere else. More than 5 million people receive services from the Title X program nationally, she adds.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ