The ongoing assault on contraception and reproductive health has resumed with a political vengeance. Yesterday the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee marked up their FY2013 funding bill and they went after contraception and reproductive health in every available way. The bill, which passed out of the subcommittee on a largely party line vote, is a senseless attack on women’s reproductive health.
The bill, if passed, would:
- Eliminate Title X, which provides funding for family planning clinics serving low-income households;
- Defund Planned Parenthood and any of its affiliates, unless the organizations certify that they will not perform abortions or provide any funds to any other entity that does;
- Provide $20 million for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention, $89 million below the President’s request, while providing $20 million for unproven “abstinence only” education programs.
- Deny funding for the Affordable Care Act; and
- Permit employers to deny health insurance coverage of any medical services (like birth control), if they object on grounds of religious beliefs or moral convictions.
These cuts would have a huge impact. More than 5 million women and men access family planning and related services every year through Title X funded clinics. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008 Title X-supported centers helped prevent 973,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 432,600 unintended births and 406,200 abortions. Planned Parenthood serves 1 in 5 women at some point during their lives. Without this resource where will women turn?
Not only does investing in family planning services help women and men plan their lives and their families, it also saves taxpayers money. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that for every dollar invested in Title X for birth control, taxpayers save just under $4 in Medicaid costs for mother and baby just in the first year. What then will be the cost to women for not having access to birth control, early cervical and breast cancer screenings, or STI and HIV testing?
One of the more alarming provisions (after the elimination of Title X and defunding of Planned Parenthood) is the policy rider that would permit employers to deny health insurance coverage of any medical services (such as birth control) if they object on religious or moral grounds. This policy rider is virtually identical to the Blunt amendment that was defeated earlier this year in the Senate. It was offered in response to the Affordable Care Act regulation requiring health insurance companies to provide birth control without a co-pay requirement. While the Administration’s regulation does not require religious institutions to cover contraceptive services, religiously-affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and schools, would be required to do so. If they object on religious grounds, their insurance company would be required to offer such coverage free of charge. Republicans felt this did not go far enough, and so offered this amendment to allow any employer to refuse to cover of any healthcare service, including contraception, for religious or moral reasons. This could also allow employer to deny coverage for such things as prenatal coverage for unwed mothers, cervical cancer vaccines, and HIV or other STI screenings. This was a bad amendment the first time it was offered, and it is just as bad this time.
The Labor-HHS funding bill is an all-out assault on contraception and reproductive health. Now is the time to stand up for women and their reproductive health and rights and tell Congress to halt the assault on contraception and reproductive health!
Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy