5 ways the sequester hurts women

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27 2013 1:10 p.m. MST

In this Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks about the sequester.

Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

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If sequestration takes place as scheduled on March 1, $1.2 trillion will be automatically removed from the federal budget in sweeping spending cuts that will take money out education, public health services, research, disaster preparedness and national security.

The effects of sequestration on America's fragile economic recovery could be devastating according to a report from the Center for American Progress. It projects that the effect of the sequester will be to lower U.S. economic output by $287 billion from where we would be without any fiscal contraction, virtually erasing all economic gains made in 2012.

But the impact of the sequester will be deeply personal for millions of low-income minority women who, according to the Center for American Progress, stand to be disproportionally hurt by the cuts. In a guest blog post for ThinkProgress, women's health and rights advocate Lindsay Rosenthal outlines the high cost of sequestration for low-income women.

First, the sequester cuts $424 million from Head Start programs. Head Start provides education, health and nutrition services to low-income preschoolers. These programs aim to ensure that children from low-income families have opportunities for education. For parents, Head Start provides safe reliable child care, ensuring they can work without worry about the well-being of their young children. But 70,000 children will lose their spots in Head Start as a result of the sequester, according to a White House fact sheet.

Second, sequestration will cut $86 million from key women's health programs, including $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; and $50 million from the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant. In a report on the impact of cuts to Title V programs, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, estimates that 5 million low-income families will not receive prenatal health care and other services that help eliminate disparities in infant mortality and maternal health.

Third, sequestration will cut $29 million from programs that provide services for victims of domestic violence, an issue that impacts 25 percent of American women at some point in their lives, according to the Domestic Violence Resource Center.

The National Partnership for Women and Families estimates that sequestration will cut $20 million from the Violence Against Women Act, which funds sexual-assault and domestic-violence prevention and intervention services, and nearly $9 million from the Family Violence Prevention Services Act, the primary funding stream for shelters that provide housing to women and children who have fled a violent home.

Fourth, the sequester will cut 600,000 beneficiaries of food stamps by cutting $600 million from food stamp programs that assist poor mothers and their children, according to the Center for American Progress, at a time when the poverty rate for women is at historic highs.

About 16.7 million children in the United States live in food-insecure households, which means they are unable to consistently access the nutritious food necessary to live a healthy life, according to the nonprofit group Feeding America.

Fifth, the sequester will cut thousands of public sector jobs. According to one estimate from the Congressional Research Service, thousands of public-sector jobs would be lost if sequestration occurs. Since according to the Department of Labor women are 50 percent more likely than men to be employed in public-sector jobs — such as those in education — their jobs are more likely than men's to be cut.

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