I rise today as the Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues. There are some issues in the FY 2003 Budget proposal impacting on women that I would like to bring to the attention of this chamber.
It was disappointing - Mr Speaker - to find that the Title X family planning program is not going to see an increase in funding. In fact, the program will be level-funded at $266 million for the 2003 fiscal year. Title X is the only Federal program devoted solely to the provision of family planning and reproductive health care. The program is designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them.
Title X is designed to assist low-income women. For many clients - especially women of color - Title X clinics provide the only continuing source of health care and health education. A growing numbers of uninsured women desperately need the care offered by Title X clinics because they cannot meet the increasing costs of medical services.
If the Title X program had kept pace with inflation in recent years, it would now be funded at $564 million. That would have been more than double the current level.
We Democratic women are pleased to see that the Budget would provide $8.4 million for the Women's Bureau at the Department of Labor.
Unfortunately, this is a decrease of $1.8 million from the 2002 Fiscal Year. The question I have, Mr Speaker, is what services to women are going to be cut to make up for this shortfall?
Already one organization has been threatened with closure. Women Work - The National Network for Women's Employment was led to believe that the Women's Bureau did not intend to its continue funding - happily, this did not happen. Programs continue to be needed to assist women find their way into employment. The Women's Bureau - especially the decentralized regional Women's Centers - have played a major role in this area and deserves to be fully funded.
The welfare of children is, of course, of grave concern to all Members of this House - not just to the women members. I am pleased to see that this Budget includes $421 million for child welfare and abuse programs. These funds provide services to prevent child abuse and neglect.
While it is laudable that this money has been allocated to such a worthy cause, it must be noted that the funding has been maintained at the same level as last year.
Americans want to see all children in happy and safe homes and protected from abusive situations. For this reason, Democrats would like to see these programs strengthened.
It is pleasing to see that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will receive $5.8 billion in this budget but Democratic women have noted that there will be a decrease of $1 billion from the 2002 fiscal year. This is a very large reduction in the CDC's budget. We all agree that every baby born should be a healthy baby. It is disappointing to see that the Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities Center will receive $1 million less than last year.
There is also a tragic imbalance - and racial disparity - in terms of babies born in the African American and white communities in our country. A black baby born today is twice as likely to die within the first year of life than a white baby. That baby is twice as likely to be born prematurely and at a low birth weight. In order to help address this major health problem, we would like to see a modest amount of $3 million restored to the Public Health Service's Office of Minority Health that is located in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The FY 03 budget includes $156 million for environmental disease prevention. This is a $1 million reduction. Cutting funding for environmental disease prevention is another unfortunate budgetary reduction.
Mr Speaker, we Democrats are deeply disappointed with this Budget and believe that it will have some unfortunate repercussions for the well-being and provision of social and health services to the American public - and particularly how these cuts will affect women.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.