If sequestration is allowed to take effect as scheduled on March 1, $1.2 trillion will be automatically removed from the federal budget in across-the-board spending cuts that would potentially reverse our economic recovery. These cuts — which take money out of critical investments in education, public health services and research, disaster preparedness, and national security — would have devastating consequences in communities around the country and would harm all Americans in a number of ways.
Sequestration also institutes several cuts to key public investments that would disproportionately harm women. Low-income women and women of color will be hit hardest by the sequestration. Here are the top five ways in which the sequestration harms women:
1. Sequestration cuts $424 million from Head Start and Early Head Start.
More and more women and single mothers are heading their households, and they are struggling to balance work and motherhood in the absence of a universal child care system. Head Start and Early Head Start provide education, health, and nutrition services to low-income women and their families, and they are critical child care providers for women who could not otherwise afford care for their children. These programs aim to ensure that limited parental income does not get in the way of a child’s early education or inhibit women from being able to work. As soon as sequestration takes effect, however, 70,000 children will be cut from Head Start and Early Head Start programs due to the eliminated funding for the program.
2. Sequestration cuts $86 million from key women’s health programs.
Between two and three women die each day from complications of giving birth. Black women in the United States die in childbirth at three to four times the rate of other racial and ethnic groups. The infant morality rate in the United States is twice as high as that of other wealthy nations, and rates are highest for low-income women of color, who often lack access to quality health care.
Sequestration cuts $4 million from the Safe Motherhood Initiative, which helps prevent pregnancy-related deaths; $8 million from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, which provides cancer screenings to low-income women; $24 million from Title X family planning and reproductive health services; and $50 million from the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant. The cuts to the Maternal and Child Health Services Block grant alone would mean 5 million fewer low-income families would be provided with prenatal health care and other services that help eliminate disparities in infant mortality and maternal health.
Lindsay Rosenthal is a Research Assistant with the Women’s Health and Rights team and the Health Policy team at the Center for American Progress.