House Once Again Seeks to Eliminate Funding for Family Planning, Planned Parenthood and Other Health Services

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House Once Again Seeks to Eliminate Funding for Family Planning, Planned Parenthood and Other Health Services

Jodi Jacobson

Just a day or two after launching a politically-motivated "investigation" of Planned Parenthood, House leadership released a draft Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill that would effectively eliminate federally-funded family planning programs.

The House GOP is nothing if not determined to show just how little regard they have for the health and well-being of women in this country.

Just a day or two after launching a politically-motivated “investigation” of Planned Parenthood–demanding audits with taxpayer funds of programs that have already been audited with taxpayer funds–the House leadership released a draft Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill that is a retread of attacks on women and the working poor. The bill would:

  • Prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood through programs such as Medicaid which provides low-income women with preventive health care, including birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, annual exams, and STD testing and treatment;
  • Eliminate funding for the Title X Family Planning Program, which provides access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other family planning services to five million low-income women each year, and through which women can avoid unintended pregnancies that would otherwise lead to abortion;
  • Ban insurance coverage of abortion in the new health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act — taking away a common health benefit that most women currently have;
  • Prevent the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (the health care reform law passed last year by Congress), and eliminate the new benefits that include insurance coverage of women’s preventive services like mammograms, cancer screenings, and birth control, with no additional co-pays;
  • Cut the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative by $64.79 million — from $ 104.79 million to $40 million — stipulating that $20 million of that money must be used for grants to provide ineffective, abstinence-only education; and
  • put in place a sweeping new refusal provision that undermines patients’ access to quality health care, effectively imposing a religious ideology test on access to essential care.

According to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the draft 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, said the Congresswoman, “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.”

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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This is of course not the first time that the House has sought to do these things, the motto being if at first you don’t succeed in gutting women’s health care, try, try again.

Earlier this year Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor made explicitly clear that they were willing to shut down the government over funding for family planning and took the country to the brink until President Obama finally called their hand.  Several efforts have been made to pass bans on abortion coverage in health reform–prohibiting women from paying for policies with their own money.  The desire of the GOP and Tea Parties to eliminate evidence-based approaches to anything, including teen pregnancy prevention has long been clear.  And right-wing politicians have made no secret of their lack of respect for gender-specific health needs, such as birth control, mammograms, and maternity care. 

As outlined in a detailed analysis of the bill from the office of Congresswoman Delauro, the proposed appropriations bill would, among other things, also:

  • Overturn 75 years of practice by removing the protections of the National Labor Relations Act from workers in any firm that falls within the SBA’s definition of “small business”—a definition broad enough to encompass companies with a thousand employees in some cases.

  • Prohibit local public radio stations from using any funds they receive from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to acquire programming from one particular provider that has evidently been singled out for the Republican majority’s displeasure—National Public Radio.

  • Block Education Department rules designed to protect students and taxpayers from those for-profit colleges with the very worst records as far as student debt loads and defaults.

  • Prohibit use of funds to implement almost any part of the Affordable Care Act. (It makes exceptions for certain Medicare payment regulations and a few provisions relating to drug costs under Medicaid.)

  • Reduce Pell Grant Assistance to students who are working while going to school.
  • Make large cuts to the Centers for Disease Control.

“There are at least 50 million people in this country without health coverage,” DeLauro said, “and yet all that we hear from the Republican majority on this subject is “no”. The bill’s prohibition would prevent use of funds to implement reforms like prohibiting insurance companies from excluding pre-existing conditions for children, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ policies, and placing restrictions on lifetime and annual coverage limits, to give just a few examples. It would also deny funds to implement the interim “risk pool” coverage for uninsured people with health problems and to continue putting in place the systems needed for full health reform implementation in 2014.”

The bill, according to DeLauro, contains at least 40 brand new legislative provisions and riders, many of them highly controversial, and most dealing with complicated subjects well outside the expertise of the Appropriations Committee from which it originates. It “injects a whole host of new, contentious legislative issues into the process,” DeLauro noted, “most of them quite extraneous to the task at hand of setting funding levels for federal agencies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year.”

Public health and rights advocates and providers of essential health care are outraged at this newest attempt to compromise the lives of women throughout the country.

“This budget not only guts effective programs that keep women and families healthy, it will make women and families worse off economically, at a time when they are already struggling,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“We believe in protecting a woman’s ability to make personal, private decisions with her doctor, and Speaker Boehner’s budget violates these fundamental American values in several ways,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“The Boehner Budget would defund Title X, the nation’s family-planning program, which serves millions of Americans each year. It also would effectively end private insurance coverage of abortion in state health-insurance exchanges. How will taking away women’s freedom and privacy lead to the job creation he promised voters?”

“This budget is further evidence that Republican leaders have no new ideas and are merely recycling failed attacks that undermine women’s health,” said Richards. “Eliminating funding for the Title X family planning program and prohibiting Planned Parenthood from providing preventive health care through federal programs will result in millions of women across the country losing access to basic primary and preventive health care, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, annual exams, and STD testing and treatment.”

“At a time when Americans desperately want and need Congress to focus on fixing our economy and creating jobs, House Republican leaders are instead continuing their campaign to take away preventive health care and affordable birth control from millions of women,” said Richards.

A bill is so laden with policy riders, restrictions and elimination of key program guarantees that efforts to pass an FY 2012 spending bill will be fraught with conflict, especially since it differs so greatly from the version passed by the Senate.

“If these documents represent the position [House leadership] intends to take into negotiations with the Senate,” said DeLauro, “it looks like we’re in for a long, difficult process. After a year of contentious budget debates, radical proposals from the new majority, and multiple threats of government shutdowns and even defaults, there had been hope that we’d be able to put all that behind us for a while and complete action on fiscal year 2012 appropriations in a reasonably timely and cooperative manner based on the spending levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act enacted last month. Judging from these proposals, though, the Republican majority doesn’t seem to be on board for that goal.”

Bottom line: If you are not a white male Republican or Tea-Party follower, you can stick it.