Population Matters

The Next Round in the War on Women

October 6th, 2011

The war on women marches on with assaults on both domestic and international fronts. The attacks this year on women’s health have been relentless, but in the last two weeks there has been a sharp escalation in the assaults.

Last week the House leadership released a proposed Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education that would:

  • Eliminate funding for the Title X Family Planning Program. Title X provides funding for birth control and other preventative health services, including breast and cervical cancer screening, annual exams, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Eliminating Title X services would not just hurt the more than five million low income people who depend on them, it would also cost taxpayers more in the long run.  Research by the Guttmacher Institute indicates that every dollar invested in family planning services saves taxpayers almost $4 in Medicaid costs.
  • Cut the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative from $104.79 million to $40 million. Not only does it cut the funding by $64.79 million, it also requires that $20 million of the total $40 million be spent on abstinence only education, which has proved ineffective. This makes no sense whatsoever when the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world.
  • Prevent the implementation of Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed by Congress last year.  In doing so, it would eliminate the requirement, scheduled to go into effect next year, that most health care insurers provide family planning and other preventative care benefits without a co-pay requirement.  The “no co-pay” requirement, which was originally proposed by the Institute of Medicine , would include coverage of longer acting birth control methods, such as  implants or IUDs.
  • Defund Planned Parenthood clinics  unless it met a set of new requirements.. According to a statement released by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the bill would prohibit:

“…any funding under the bill from going to any Planned Parenthood affiliate unless the organization promises not to perform abortions with non-federal funds. Remarkably, these particular health care providers—and the patients they serve—would be denied federal funding for any purpose unless they agree to stop providing a lawful medical service using funds from patients and other non-federal sources. The main effect would probably be to prohibit Medicaid patients from choosing to receive services such as contraception and cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood clinics.”

During the recent House deliberations, Planned Parenthood has come under strong political assault.  Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL, who serves on the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, demanded an audit of Planned Parenthood asking for records back to 1998, requiring the records be produced in two weeks. This politically motivated audit is a waste of taxpayer’s money; it’s just an attempt to harass and intimidate Planned Parenthood, which is regularly audited by the HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs.

The war on women also has an international component: in late July the House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee approved a 25% cut in international family planning assistance for FY2012. Along with the cut in funding, the Subcommittee also voted for two policy-related restrictions: a ban on any support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and reinstatement of the global “gag rule” that President Obama repealed by executive order during his first month in office.

In late September the Senate Appropriations Committee fired back with their response and approved a State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 that would provide $700 million for international family planning assistance, including $40 million for the United Nations Population Fund.  The Senate action would boost funding by $85 million over this year’s appropriation level ($615 million).  The Committee rejected the House’s position on the gag rule, and voted to make President Obama’s repeal of the gag rule permanent.

It’s too early to say how much success the House will have in its campaign to slash funding for international family planning, but if the House Subcommittee’s version prevails, the Guttmacher Institute warns that a 25 percent cut in funding would result in:

  • 9.4 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services
  • Almost 3 million more unintended pregnancies
  • 1.3 million more abortions (mostly unsafe)
  • 1.3 million more unplanned births
  • 7,700 more maternal deaths

Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday voted 23-17 on a straight party line vote to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).   UNFPA’s mission is to “support countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.”  The defunding of UNFPA would have a devastating impact on the lives of women around the world. According to UNFPA,  a $50 million U.S. appropriation would  prevent 7,000 maternal and newborn deaths, provide surgeries to 10,000 women afflicted by an obstetric fistula, and offer contraception to about 1 million couples who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

It’s time to halt the assault on women’s health, before it starts costing lives.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

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