Three new reports from the Guttmacher Institute highlight the importance of publicly subsidized women’s health services for many low-income women in the United States. Analysis from the group points to three areas of publicly subsidized care — all of which the state of Florida either neglected or cut in the past legislative session.

A series of three reports show that marginalized populations rely heavily on services that are publicly subsidized. These programs help lower the rate of unintended pregnancies, promote maternal and infant health, and save taxpayer dollars in the long run.

According to the Guttmacher report, services include:

  • a gateway into the U.S. health care system for women who would otherwise only have a tenuous connection to medical care, or none at all;
  • a source of urgently needed contraceptive services and other sexual health care for young women in foster care, who are at high risk of unintended pregnancy; and
  • a highly successful public health program that boosts maternal and newborn health, saves billions in taxpayer dollars, and averts significant numbers of unintended pregnancies, unplanned births and abortions.

In each of these areas, Florida’s GOP-led state legislature and Republican governor have made significant cuts.

According to “The Role of Family Planning Centers as Gateways to Health Coverage and Care,” by Rachel Benson Gold, six in 10 women who receive health care services from family planning centers, such as Planned Parenthood, described the centers as their usual source of medical care. The report explains that the centers foster long-standing trust with their patients, which they leverage to get their patients health care beyond family planning services.

In Florida, the state Legislature cut almost $1 million in family planning dollars from this year’s state budget, which directly affects local family planning centers in the state. Gov. Rick Scott further cut millions of state dollars for health services and centers that serve women.

Another report highlights the importance of providing family planning services for young women in foster care. This group of young women, in particular, has a high unintended pregnancy rate. According to “Teen Pregnancy Among Young Women in Foster Care: A Primer,” by Heather D. Boonstra, young women in foster care “are more than twice as likely as their peers to become pregnant by age 19, with many experiencing a repeat pregnancy by that age.”

These women are eligible for Medicaid and most receive medical care through the program. In an effort to reduce unintended pregnancy rates among this group and curb costs to taxpayers, Boonstra says “child welfare agencies and program planners should be thinking about ways to maximize these levers to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of foster youth.”

However, Boonstra says that budget cuts at both the state and federal level for child welfare programs and for publicly subsidized family planning services “could jeopardize any potential progress.”

Florida this year made major changes to its state Medicaid program. The new system includes a provision that allows Medicaid providers the ability to opt-out of providing family planning services. Scott also cut programs that would have provided health care services to at-risk first-time mothers.

Family planning and women’s health also rely heavily on the support of Title X funding. Recent efforts to defund Planned Parenthood have put national family planning efforts in jeopardy. According to “The Numbers Tell the Story: The Reach and Impact of Title X,” by Susan A. Cohen, the impact of Title X-funded services is significant. The report shows that “the services provided at these sites enable women to avoid 973,000 unplanned pregnancies each year, averting 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 abortions.”

Furthermore, “these services further save (conservatively estimated) the federal government and the states $3.4 billion in Medicaid costs for prenatal, delivery and infant care—amounting to $3.74 saved for every $1 spent on contraceptive care,” according to the report.

Combined with federal efforts to cut Title X family planning dollars, marginalized and low-income women in the state of Florida are facing a significant health care access deficit. Much focus this past legislative session, however, was focused on limiting access to abortions. This approach to legislating reproductive health issues was recently found to be unfavorable to most voters.

Last week, Scott signed the first out of five abortion-restricting bills passed by the GOP-led legislature this year.

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