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Devastating Effects of Sequestration Cuts to Maternal and Child Health Programs and Research

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. CAPPS. I rise to voice my very strong support of our Nation's maternal and child health programs. And I want to thank my colleague from Illinois, Jan Schakowsky, for getting the idea that we come together around this topic today because of the implications that it has for the beautiful young woman and her child that you're picturing next to you that is a reminder to all of us that these are not numbers when we're talking about sequestration. They really have impacts in people's very lives.

So it's an honor for me to follow our colleague, Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut, and also to have as part of your discussion Gwen Moore, a very eloquent spokesperson from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So, really, this is very diverse in terms of regions of the country that are going to be impacted should we ever cross this threshold. But most of the public discussion we've had so far on this fiscal cliff, however it's described, that we face, the discussion has been about taxes, about who's going to pay what in taxes.

But what has been so underreported and overlooked, which is why I'm so grateful to you for calling this out today for us, is the impacts that sequestration cuts would have on our economy, but especially on that vital element of our economy which is our most vulnerable in our society--our children.

They're our future. They are not just statistics. They are real little people who cannot wait for services because their bodies will change, their minds will be stunted. They will lose out if we withhold support for them. And I speak from my many years of being a nurse, as you described, and being a nurse in our public sector,

in our public schools and a public health nurse. And I've seen firsthand what happens when we cut services to our children. We need to be investing in our children because they are our economic engine for tomorrow and we cannot afford to leave one of them behind.

We, therefore, can't afford to slash the very programs that will give them the kind of healthy start in life. You invest a dollar up front in a child and you recoup that dollar so many times over their lifetime and you prevent a lot of other kinds of dollars from being spent in ways that we don't want to. But sequestration would be devastating for our children.

I focused on my State of California in terms of looking at what this would be like. These cuts, should sequestration come to pass, would be so devastating to the health and well-being of hundreds and thousands of women and children in the State I come from. For example, in the program that we've all been talking about because it's so central to what families need--food security--the Women, Infants and Children's program that helps those who don't have enough for their children to give them that healthy start, over 120,000 women and children would be cut from this essential program just in California if sequestration came to be. And this provides nutrition assistance, vital links to a healthy, thriving brain and body for families that might not have access to healthy food.

For Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grants, nearly 400,000 fewer women and children would be served by these block grants that go to the State to provide the essential services in the local communities. And so the ripple effect down our State and throughout our communities would be so tremendous because these services provide a wide range of health care and they allow the expansion of certain quality health care programs for children, for example, with disabilities.

In California, we would be facing, should sequestration happen, 2,000 fewer women having access to breast and cervical screenings, the preventive services that keep cancer full-blown from occurring in these women's lives, so costly to them personally, to their families, but also taxpayers, and nearly a million dollars--and this is what I want to close by focusing on, because we don't stop and think when we cut a million dollars from the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Program, in sequestration a million dollars would be cut just for these training programs in California. That program makes sure that we have enough resources necessary to train the next generation of pediatric physicians, people who are there on the front line with families to pull them through what they face in life.

I met the real-life impact of this program when a remarkable young man came to Capitol Hill from California last year, Max Page. Now, you may not remember his name, but you probably remember if you watched the Super Bowl in 2011 little Darth Vader in the ad, the popular Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial. He's a real young child. He's only 7 years old. And I came to meet him here on Capitol Hill last year. He was born with a congenital heart defect--not uncommon. But it has required numerous surgeries during the 7 years of his short life.

He is being treated at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, which my colleagues from California know very well as an outstanding medical facility serving a wide region in the Southwest.

Last year, when Max came to Washington with his parents and little brother, he came to tell Members of Congress his own story and how important it is that we continue to invest in preparing new doctors to care for our children. I know it's every parent's worst fear what will happen if their child becomes sick, not just a runny nose or a sore throat, but seriously ill with perhaps a life-threatening or a chronic condition that needs lifelong treating. We owe it to every parent in America to do what we can to make sure that every child has access to the best health care available if they need it. We don't want them to be concerned that there is not going to be that trained pediatrician, that hospital to send their sick child to should that happen, and it's because we couldn't get our act together and avoid the sequestration.

So I'm so pleased that you took the time to organize this hour of sharing with the American people the impact of sequestration, that it would have such a profound effect on our lives when we think about ensuring that every child in America gets a healthy start to life. We take it for granted that every small child needs and deserves this right in this country that we are proud to live in, the United States of America.

So we need to come together now on behalf of our Nation's children and their mothers and their families to stop these sequestration cuts, to ensure that we have a balanced approach to reducing our debt, and to continue to support our communities and the frontline services that they provide to our families, because our smallest, our most vulnerable and their families, they're depending on us now in this hour.

So again, I thank you for bringing us together, my colleague from Illinois, and for focusing us on the real-life impact of what we're facing here with the cliff.


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