WASHINGTON - Women's-rights activists are taking the fight to preserve family-planning funding outside the Beltway, calling on grassroots activists to pressure their representatives into maintaining the Title X program.
Enacted in 1970 as part of the Public Health Service Act, the family-planning program was designed to focus on low-income Americans. The preventive-health services it provides include information and access to contraception, earning the ire of social conservatives.
Though there is no mention of Title X in President Barack Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012, Republicans have placed a high priority on cutting the $317 million the program received in FY 2011 appropriations, which would effectively eliminate it. The stopgap budget proposal the GOP released last week includes no money for the program, and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has introduced separate legislation to "deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider."
The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America launched a campaign on Monday to mobilize activists in six districts where abortion-rights advocates lost to "anti- or mixed-choice representatives" in November's midterm elections. The campaign targets Republican Reps. Charlie Bass (N.H.), Robert Dold (Ill.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Richard Hanna (N.Y), Nan Hayworth (N.Y) and Steve Stivers (Ohio).
NARAL is also stepping up pressure on longer-serving members, including Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.) and Republican Reps. Judy Biggert (Ill.), Charlie Dent (Penn.), Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J), Leonard Lance (N.J), and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.).
"And where is your alleged 'moderate' representative on this?" reads the email going out to activists in Stivers' district. "We don't know. Rep. Stivers has said nothing of this proposed cut, and it's very possible that he could choose to vote for an anti-choice budget that decimates family planning."
"Politicians who campaigned on the promise of focusing on jobs and the economy need to be held accountable if, at the first possible opportunity, they join with John Boehner to launch a full-fledged war on contraception," NARAL President Nancy Keenan said. "It is the height of hypocrisy for anti-choice politicians to seek to abolish a program that helps prevent unintended pregnancy and thus reduce the need for abortion. How many jobs will be generated by eliminating women's access to birth control?"
Democratic lawmakers are working to increase public attention to Pence's bill and two other measures that would restrict abortion access.
"We have to make this issue too hot to handle," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday conference call with reporters. "I would like to make the fight in the House and see where some of these Republicans are -- maybe we could win it on Title X. I can't believe that everybody who is anti a woman's right to choose is anti-birth control and contraception and family planning. But we don't know that, and we don't have any idea -- or I don't, anyway -- where the Tea Party people come down in all of this."
In an interview with The Huffington Post at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) disagreed with the argument that this focus on social issues is a distraction from the economy.
"It is an economic and a moral issue, so anytime you can kill two birds with one stone, we ought to do that," King said. "And if we can kill the whole flock with one rock, we ought to do that."