Reproductive Rights and Public Policy

1 03 2011

Congress and some states cut funding for women’s health – leading to public outcries  By: Sarah Sonies                

Photo by ProgressOhio

Photo by ProgressOhio

Last November, the nation saw the first glimpses of what has launched into a full-fledged budget war when the newly Republican controlled House vowed to cut the budget to reduce the national debt in any way possible. The House has been swift to make sure the newly elected members will keep their word on election promises and announced last month a $2.5 trillion cut in spending for the 2012 fiscal year.

President Obama and the White House released the official budget proposal Feb. 14 for the 2012 fiscal year that proposed to cut $1.1 trillion from the deficit over ten years, leading to cries from Republicans that the Obama administration was cutting far too little.

Congress is currently engaged in a budget stalemate with women’s reproductive health organizations in the middle all across the nation. The cuts proposed for women’s health organizations made headlines these past few weeks, but leave a blurry area in terms of what they could mean for the future of reproductive health funding and the programs that the reproductive health funding provided by Congress and various states to its constituencies.

The proposed funding cuts made in January by House Republicans included a $317 million slash of the Title X family funding budget, which supports improving the quality of family planning services all across America, comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services; such as training for family planning clinic personnel through ten regional general training programs and three national training programs that focus on clinical training in a 2011 spending bill. Title X includes programs such as Planned Parenthood, which provides contraceptive, abortion and family planning services to women all over the United States.

The proposed cuts for Planned Parenthood have been making the news recently because according to the Feb. 17 New York Times article, (“Planned Parenthood Financing is Caught in Budget Feud”) the Title X funding leaves out the $75 million that Planned Parenthood receives to provide family planning assistance to low-income women.

Funding opponents say that this $75 million in funding only provides spare funds for abortions and is unnecessary. However, “for every dollar spent on contraception for low-income women, the government saves four dollars in medical costs within the next year by averting unwanted pregnancies,” director of governmental affairs at the Guttmacher Institute, Susan Cohen said in the article.

Congress does not permit direct funding for abortions but Republicans including Mike Pence, (R-Indiana), have expressed beliefs that Planned Parenthood abuses its funding. According to the article, it is unlikely that all funding for Planned Parenthood will be cut but Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, described the funding cuts as “the most dangerous legislative assault on women’s health in Planned Parenthood’s 95-year history.” The article states that the spending bill will now shift to the Senate or further discussion. However, members of Planed Parenthood fear that the issue of the Title X funding will get lost in the greater issues of the budget and have launched a media campaign to designed to respond to the online attacks and accusations directed towards Planned Parenthood, such as the anti-Planned Parenthood website “Expose Planned Parenthood”.

It is obvious that there are going to have to be drastic budget cuts and a funding agreement made soon to avoid a government shut down, however the question that remains is what exactly will happen in the case of Title X, which is part of a major budget and legislation battle nationally, as well as in various states.

Virginia and Georgia are among the various states that have legislation in the works aimed to cut reproductive health funding. The Virginia legislature passed “historic” legislation designed to severely tighten regulations at abortion clinics that practice first-trimester abortions throughout the state. According to the Feb. 26 Washington Post article (“Va. bill a reminder that abortion rights can’t defend themselves”) Virginia abortion clinics will have to abide by hospital regulations, which are not directly defined, as the statute gives the state Board of Health a lot of leeway in defining what kind of “hospital” facilities an abortion clinic must provide.

The controversial bill, which the article states that Virginia Democrats “carelessly” let slip through committee, could lead to the closing of many of all of the 21 abortion clinics in Virginia. According to the Washington Post article, if the Virginia Board of Health adopts the regulation that all abortion clinics must function like “out-patient surgical centers,” it could cost millions of dollars to renovate the clinics to align with the regulations.

Farther south, Georgia state representative Bobby Franklin (R- Cobb) has proposed a bill that could criminalize miscarriages. However, the full text of the statue states that criminalization would only occur if the termination occurred “purposefully” proposed bill from Georgia can be found here.

The Public Policy Section of the Reproductive Health Science Project website will be monitoring reproductive health policies, the Congressional spending debate and other policy issues through the Spring 2011 semester.

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