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Women’s health advocates blast proposed GOP spending bill that would kill family-planning funding

MahurinEcon_Thumb_1756.jpg
MahurinEcon_Thumb_1756.jpg

The same week that anti-abortion-rights advocates and Catholic colleges pushed the Obama administration to repeal a recent decision to include contraception in a list of fully-covered preventive health-care services, House Republicans unveiled a proposed spending plan for 2012 that could leave many women without access to reproductive-health services, reproductive-rights advocates say.

On Thursday, the House GOP unveiled what Politico referred to as “the most controversial of spending bills” — a $153.4 billion measure that proposes to cut $4 billion in spending from the 2011 budget. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) authored and introduced the bill (PDF), which presents controversial cuts to education, labor and health services, particularly to women’s reproductive-health services: It would eliminate the Title X family-planning program, ban federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America (unless the organization ends its abortion services), redirect teen-pregnancy-prevention programming funds to abstinence-only sex-education programs and ban private insurance companies from covering abortion.

“We believe in protecting a woman’s ability to make personal, private decisions with her doctor, and Speaker [John] Boehner’s budget violates these fundamental American values in several ways,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan in a statement Thursday. “How will taking away women’s freedom and privacy lead to the job creation he promised voters?”

Controversial still is how the spending bill was crafted.

After Rep. Rehberg posted the legislation online, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who sits on the subcommittee, issued a statement censuring the chairman for posting the draft before public debate and accusing the Republican majority of violating its pledge to follow regular legislative order in dealing with appropriations.

“I am very concerned by reports that the Chairman has no plans to convene a meeting of our subcommittee to consider and mark up this legislation,” DeLauro said. “While this posting of the Chairman’s proposals is interesting, it is by no means an acceptable substitute for public debate and amendment. The Chairman, by himself, is not the subcommittee. … If no House markup is held, this would be the first time in nearly a decade that our subcommittee has failed to report out a bill.”

DeLauro criticized Rehberg’s proposed spending cuts, which she said injects “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 Committees.”

She said that Rehberg’s bill prohibits use of federal funds to implement any part of the Affordable Care Act; nearly eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Services, which administers Americorps and related programs; cuts the nation’s job-training program by 75 percent (but protects reemployment programs for veterans); and prohibits public radio stations from using any federal funds to acquire programming from National Public Radio.

DeLauro warned of potential consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood.

“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,” she said.

DeLauro noted that eliminating family-planning funding would likely impact about 5 million people annually.

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