Cuts Put Women’s Health and Safety at Risk

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Cuts Put Women’s Health and Safety at Risk

By - February 22, 2012

This is the final post in a three-part series highlighting the impact of budget cuts on women in Washington state. This post includes information on cuts proposed in the House budget released yesterday. 

State investments that promote reproductive health and safety among women have large returns in the form of healthier pregnancies and babies, reductions in unintended pregnancies, and keeping women and children safe from violence.   As our brief, Women, Work, and Washington’s Economy, highlights, past budget cuts to reproductive health services and newly proposed cuts to domestic violence and sexual assault services are putting women’s and children’s health and safety at risk.

Reproductive Health

The Washington State Department of Health funds a network of local family planning providers throughout the state.  For every $1 spent on family planning, $4 is saved in lower rates of unintended pregnancy and improved maternal and child health outcomes.  A different program, Maternity Support Services (MSS), provides low-income women with the medical care, education, and counseling they need to be healthy during and after pregnancy. Women who receive MSS are more likely to seek prenatal care, which reduces low birth weight among babies and improves the number of healthy births. 

Since 2009, cuts to MSS and family planning grants have reduced the number of women receiving this vital care:

  • In 36 of 39 counties use of Maternity Support Services fell following cuts.    A $23 million funding cut has meant fewer MSS providers, limiting the availability of services. The majority of counties have seen a decrease in use of MSS, with rural counties experiencing the sharpest drops (see figure).
  • Over 46,000 fewer women being served by family planning agencies. Over $3.5 million has been cut for family planning, reducing the number of agencies funded from 119 to 70.  As a result, these agencies served 46,000 fewer women in 2011 compared to 2009.

Figure10_MSS_decrease_NOFIG#

Safety

Living in a home where you feel safe and free of violence is essential to overall well-being. Violence, however, is an all-too-common experience for women and children in Washington state, and the recession is escalating the need for domestic violence and sexual assault services.

Two alarming trends are on the rise in Washington – more women are seeking help for domestic violence and sexual assault, and a growing number are requesting economic help at the same time. According to Mary Ellen Stone, Director of King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, their caseload has increased since the recession and referrals for economic resources are “at an all-time high.”

These trends are occurring just as the recently released House budget is proposing to cut nearly $1 million in funding for organizations supporting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and victims of crime. Organizations throughout Washington state are grappling with what services they will have to eliminate, and how it will affect our communities:

“We budget on a shoestring as it is. The women who come to us are desperate for a safe place to escape violence, and resources to help them get back on their feet. If our budget is cut, we will have to provide Band-Aid solutions that ignore the services women need to keep them and their children safe in the long-term. I am afraid of what will happen to our communities if we can’t keep providing the full range of services we do now.”~Christine Wall, Alternatives to Violence in the Palouse

For more information, read the full brief, and our posts on women’s employment and economic security