FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Proposed federal budget cuts may force Fort Wayne’s only free women's health clinic to close.
The IPFW Lafayette Street Family Health Clinic has been providing free or low-cost birth control, exams, and education since 2006. It has also become a resource for IPFW students entering the nursing field since the clinic is staffed by nurses and not physicians.
The Lafayette Street Family Clinic participates in the Title X program, which is the principal source of funding for family planning clinics across the United States.
More than 92 percent of the 1,000 patients who received services last year fell under the poverty line. Many of those patients made appointments on multiple occasions. Clinic officials report around 2,400 total visits in 2010. A majority of the women who come to the clinic are between the ages of 19 and 24, but a quarter of patients are under 19.
This month the Federal House Appropriations Committee proposed budget cuts that would end Title X funding all together. It's a move that could save the government $327 million annually. At the Lafayette Street Family Clinic, it would mean a loss of $300,000 annually. The clinic is totally funded by Title X, and clinic officials say the only option without those funds would be to shut down completely.
Linda Finke is the Dean of the College of Health & Human Services at IPFW. She says, “A number of things would go untreated, and women's health care would really suffer without this clinic. It's been a huge benefit to people in the community."
Like all other Title X facilities. the Lafayette Street Family Clinic is prohibited from using funding for abortions. That issue has drawn criticism by many conservatives who believe funding for family planning clinics may be indirectly funding abortion services.
Representative Mike Pence (R - Ind.) has introduced legislation that would end Title X funding to all clinics that provide abortion services, regardless of what the money has been designated for. Others, however, fail to see the point, saying clinics are already prohibited from using the funds for abortions and ended funding all together would have devastating consequences on women and families.
Finke says there are a lot of misconceptions about Title X clinics amongst community members and members of Congress.
"One issue is understanding there is no other funding," says Finke. "And I think they also have the misconception that there is health care available to our clients somewhere else, and there just really isn't. If you don't have the money to pay, you can't get health care."
Finke also says that while it may be costly to fund Title X, it's a good use of money. She says the education provided to the people who utilize Title X facilities will have a positive impact for years to come. For example, contraceptives provided at these clinics help prevent unplanned pregnancies that could cost the government more in the long run.
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