WASHINGTON -- November 22 -- Congress' sneak attack on a woman's right to choose wasn't limited to the Federal Refusal Clause added to the omnibus appropriations bill without a vote, NARAL Pro-Choice America noted today. The massive federal spending bill contains several provisions that advance anti- choice ideology at the expense of women's health in ways that will likely increase unintended pregnancies and the need for abortions.
NARAL Pro-Choice America Interim President Elizabeth Cavendish said: "It's only been two weeks since the election, but we can already see how things work in George Bush's second term. The far right will stop at nothing to advance its agenda. But the American people will only stand for so much. Simultaneously limiting women's ability to access reproductive health services and reducing their ability to prevent unintended pregnancies makes no sense at all."
In addition to the Federal Refusal Clause, the bill contains a number of provisions that harm women's ability to control their own reproductive decisions:
Under Funding Family Planning: Title X, the nation's cornerstone family-planning program for low-income women, continues to be inadequately funded. Each year, approximately 4.5 million low-income women and men receive basic health care through the 4,600 clinics nationwide, but far more eligible people do not receive these critical services. This program reduces unintended pregnancies and makes abortion less necessary.
Increase Funding for Unproven "Abstinence-Only" Programs: Scientifically unproven "abstinence only" programs received a $30 million increase; three times that of Title X. These programs censor discussion of contraception's health benefits leaving teens ill equipped to protect themselves against pregnancy and disease.
Once Again Canceling Family Planning for World's Poorest Women: Language that would have restored previously canceled funds to the United Nations Fund for Population Assistance (UNFPA) was stripped from the omnibus. UNFPA provides reproductive-health care, including family-planning services but NOT abortion, to the world's poorest women. For each of the last three years, President Bush has cancelled all funding for this vital program. The loss of EACH year's funding, $34 million, could prevent 2 million unintended pregnancies; nearly 800,000 abortions; 4,700 maternal deaths; nearly 60,000 cases of serious maternal illness; and more than 77,000 infant and child deaths.
Enforcing the "Global Gag Rule": Senate language that would have repealed the "global gag rule" was stripped from the omnibus legislation. This harmful policy, imposed by President Bush on his first business day in office, prohibits the US Agency for International Development (USAID) from granting family- planning funds to any overseas health clinic unless it agrees not to use its own, private, non-U.S. funds for abortion services, advocacy, or counseling.