Friday, March 25, 2011

Deficit Reduction Lies: The House GOP Leadership’s War on Women’s Health and Contraception

We have no time to waste: the anti-choice House leadership is using the budget deficit as a justification for their devastating and draconian budget cuts for Title X family planning programs and specifically their demands that Planned Parenthood be defunded – with potentially disastrous consequences for women’s health.  The chair of the Washington section for the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, Dr. Judy M. Kimelman debunks this lie specifically for Washington women by explaining:
In Washington, for every dollar spent on family planning the state saves more than $4 in costs associated with unintended pregnancy…Planned Parenthood serves more than 140,000 women in Washington, provides education to 35,000…In 2010 alone, 72 percent of women in Washington who used Title X funds received their care at a Planned Parenthood health center.
Take Action Now: Sign our petition to our Senators and Representatives and ask them to stand up against the War on Women.
Planned Parenthood provides women with a litany of medical services ranging from cancer screenings, HIV testing, and annual health exams.  The real truth is that the House GOP wants to stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions and they are willing to sacrifice the health and welfare of women to do it.  The House GOP wants to deny vulnerable, low-income women access to medical care but specifically they want to deny these same women any access to contraception.  Anti-choice politicians reveal their hypocrisy when they say they’re opposed to abortion while simultaneously trying to restrict access to birth control.  Telling people that access to birth control does not reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies and therefore does not reduce abortion rates flies in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Access to birth control is the best way women can prevent unintended pregnancies. 
The Guttmacher Institute’s recent report, Contraception Works—and Publicly Funded Family Planning Programs Are Essential to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion, explains:
Contraceptive use dramatically reduces unplanned pregnancy.  By doing so, it also dramatically reduces abortion, since behind almost every abortion is an unplanned pregnancy.  Guttmacher Institute research shows that the two-thirds of U.S. women at risk of unintended pregnancy who use contraception consistently and correctly throughout the course of any given year account for only 5% of all unintended pregnancies.  The 19% of women at risk who use contraception but do so inconsistently account for 44% of all unintended pregnancies, while the 16% of women at risk who do not use contraception at all for a month or more during the year account for 52% of all unintended pregnancies.
Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has become the House GOP’s designated attack dog with the destruction of Planned Parenthood defined as his ultimate reward.  But the real victims are the women he so callously turns his back on.  Pence introduced the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (H.R.217) on January 7th in his never-ending quest to demonize and delegitimize Planned Parenthood right out of existence.
Pence and other anti-choice politicians simply want to stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions and if that means eliminating all health care access for low-income woman – then that’s just fine with them.  Elaine Rose, chief executive of Planned Parenthood Votes! Washington, recently stated “[i]n Washington, 60 percent of patients at Planned Parenthood have no other medical provider…[and]…[w]hat the Republicans ultimately want is they don’t want birth control.”
The attacks on access to abortion services combined with the attacks on all family planning services demonstrates that the House GOP is concerned with one thing and one thing only: continuing their ongoing war against the health and welfare of America’s women by any means necessary.  Instead of focusing on the nation’s economic woes they have chosen to prioritize restrictions on abortion and contraception.  This legislative agenda was of course “…all but invisible during the midterm elections…” belying the claims that new House GOP leadership was elected to tackle the jobs crisis.
Publicly funded family planning is vital to vulnerable women because “…unintended pregnancy and its consequences, either an abortion or an unplanned birth, are highly concentrated among economically disadvantaged women.”  Moreover, “…there isstrong evidence that modern contraceptive methods are replacing abortion as the primary means of family planning.”  The Guttmacher Institute reports:
…most women having abortions were either not using any contraception or were using a method inconsistently. In 2000, the most recent year for which data are available, almost one-half (46%) of abortion patients were not using a contraceptive method in the month they got pregnant. Among the 54% of abortion patients who were using some form of contraception, the overwhelming majority acknowledged that their use was inconsistent…
However, the pushback against this smear campaign is coming not just from Democrats but also from GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.  Objecting to Planned Parenthood funding cuts, Senator Murkowski statedthat “…Planned Parenthood provides vital services to those in need…”  Susan Collins explained, “[t]he program has successfully reduced the number of unplanned pregnancies, therefore helping to reduce health care costs.”  Further expanding on her position, Senator Murkowski explained:
From 2002-2008, Planned Parenthood received $342 million in federal taxpayer money through Title X funding alone. With these funds, Planned Parenthood has provided women throughout the U.S. with important family planning and contraceptive services as well as screening for breast and cervical cancers for low-income women. I believe it is important that Title X organizations continue to receive funding. In Alaska, this includes five centers — two health department clinics, two Planned Parenthood clinics in Sitka and Soldotna and one independent clinic.
If anti-choice politicians were really concerned about reducing abortion rates then they would not want to eliminate access to contraception for low-income women.  The cost of contraception is a major barrier to access in the U.S.  A May 2010 Guttmacher Institute report detailed the following statistics:
  • Of the 36 million women in need of contraceptive care in 2008, 17.4 million were in need of publicly funded services and supplies because they either had an income below 250% of the federal poverty level or were younger than 20.
  • The number of women in need of publicly funded services increased by more than one million (6%) between 2000 and 2008.
  • Among the 17.4 million women in need of publicly funded contraceptive care, 71% (12.4 million) were poor or low-income adults, and 29% (5 million) were younger than 20.  Four in 10 poor women of reproductive age have no insurance coverage whatsoever.
Adding insult to extreme injury, the House GOP is also attacking teen sex education programs with their bottomless narrative that abstinence-only education really does work.  The House GOP doubled down on this falsehood by voting to wipe out sex education programs for teens within their attack on Title X family planning programs.
The anti-choice politicians who are currently dominating the congressional GOP are joined by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in their dogged determination to eliminate contraceptive access.
The New York Times recently reported that the Obama administration is looking into whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “…can be used to require insurance plans to offer contraceptives and other family planning services to women free of charge” thereby providing greater access to birth control for women who cannot afford the cost.
ACA requires insurers to provide all preventive health services at no cost to the insured person.  Because scientific evidence has clearly established that access to contraception and family planning services not only improves a woman’s overall health but increases her life span, contraception should be covered under ACA.
Nonetheless, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with other conservative organizations, is predictably objecting to science based reasoning, telling the New York Times “[p]regnancy is not a disease to be prevented, nor is fertility a pathological condition…So birth control is not preventive care, and it should not be mandated.”
The Department of Health and Human Services will likely issue the preventative health care guidelines for women’s health care by August 1st.  NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, the National Partnership for Women and Families, theGuttmacher Institute, and the National Women’s Law Center all support no-cost birth control along with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other obstetricians, gynecologists, pediatricians, and public health experts.
Take Action Now: Right now, the federal government and medical experts are deciding if no-cost birth control will be part of the new health-care system.
We are working hard to make no-cost birth control a reality. Our campaign is called BC4ME.  Get more information and sign our petition in support of no-cost birth control.
Stay tuned for updates on the War on Women and how you can get involved in protecting women’s rights and health.

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