GOP War On Women Thinly Veiled Behind Draft Budget

Our guest blogger is Lucy Panza, a policy analyst with the Women’s Health and Rights Program at American Progress Action Fund.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee released a draft FY 2012 budget for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education that reduces funding for health care reform by at least $8.6 billion and makes significant cuts to services for low income women and families – at the same time that women are falling deeper into poverty. Some highlights:

Funding for the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant is proposed at $654,489,000 – a $1.8 million reduction from the FY 2011 level;

— The $350 million Title V Maternal, Infant and Early Child Health Home Visiting program is eliminated;

— The $25 million Pregnancy Assistance Fund is eliminated; and

— $337 million in Title X Family Planning grants are proposed to be eliminated – this would eliminate Title X altogether.

Funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative is reduced by $64.79 million — from $104.79 million to $40 million. 

These cuts, if enacted, would end publicly funded women’s health care as we know it. Just to take a few examples, the Title V proposed cuts would deny pre-natal health access to millions of mothers and preventive care access to millions of children. The elimination of Title X (signed into law by Republican President Nixon in 1970) would mean that millions of Americans who rely on publicly funded health clinics each year would go without services like mammograms, cancer screenings, and birth control. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative funding would be diverted to ineffective, abstinence-only education. And these are just a few of the implications. Perhaps most offensive is the “pro-life” banner that the GOP waved in its own summary of the proposed budget:

Protecting Life – The bill includes several provisions to protect life. These include continuations of longstanding restrictions on abortion funding that have been included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations legislation in prior years. The legislation expands the Hyde Amendment to apply to funding provided through ObamaCare, includes language prohibiting funding for Planned Parenthood unless it certifies it will not provide abortions, and includes the text of the “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act.” The bill also bans funding for needle exchange programs, a provision that had been included in the bill until fiscal year 2010.

The reality underlying these cuts is the double kudos that Republicans expect to get from stripping health reform implementation of necessary funding while at the same time reducing access to reproductive health and rights. While no one can deny that budget-drafting is a form of policymaking, this House majority has unabashedly used the budget-making process to advance its out-of-touch ideological agenda. To name just one example, the current draft bans insurance coverage of abortion in the new health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act — restricting a common health benefit that most women currently have – in a budgetary proposal. What does this have to do with the budget? Nothing. There is no federal spending involved in deciding whether a state allows or prohibits insurance coverage of a particular health benefit, and it shouldn’t be in a budget proposal released by the United States House of Representatives.

This proposal is largely symbolic. Ultimately, it will fail because neither the Democratic-controlled Senate nor the White House – nor advocates on the ground, for that matter – will allow it to become law. But that should be no source of comfort – for one thing, bits and pieces of the proposal may end up in the final product. Yesterday’s budget proposal is a reminder of the long road ahead for reproductive health, rights and justice advocates – and how persistent the opposition is.