A Win for Contraceptives

Ellen Marshall

Thursday the House of Representatives confirmed that domestic family-planning programs serve a crucial public health need — despite protests from some anti-contraception legislators.

This evening the House passed a bill to fund programs under the Department of Health and Human Services — including domestic family planning programs — and one of the last votes brought before the House was to make sure that NO funds go to Planned Parenthood. Ardent anti-contraception activist Rep. Mike Pence, despite his six-plus years in Congress, hasn't taken the time to understand these programs — and that the domestic family planning program, which functions by funding county health departments, independent clinics and those in the Planned Parenthood federation, provide some of the most basic health services needed by low-income and working-poor individuals.

Having just today come back from seeing some of these funds at work in rural parts of Colorado, it incenses me all the more that Rep. Pence thinks he is providing a "service" to us to try and reduce access to pregnancy tests, testing and prevention for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, contraceptives, testing for cancers and blood pressure and other basic screenings. In many rural communities, Planned Parenthood clinics serve as the key health care provider. Too often, these are the only mechanisms through which people are accessing health services.

But this doesn't matter to Mr. Pence. This system works in parts of our country where it is hard to find a health care provider. People visit their local Planned Parenthood clinic to access some basic health care services — and help them find a way to access additional health care they might need. Pence (and his supporters) seem to think that in making Planned Parenthood ineligible for these funds, other clinics will just pop up out of the ground to provide these services. Who's he kidding? As if we're having an easy time getting health services to people under the current system?!

He said he didn't want to fund Planned Parenthood because some of those clinics provide abortion services (but not with your tax dollars — and it's not like Planned Parenthood is the only entity that somehow receives federal dollars and also provides abortion services — though again, not with your tax dollars).

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I would argue that his mission is actually to reduce service providers which in turn will reduce access to contraception overall.

Thankfully, the majority of the House saw through his hyperbole. 231 Members voted against Pence and 189 stood with him. (Far too many in my book.) And a tip of the hat to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) running in at the last minute to make sure he could vote on the side of the sane.

More good news on this bill is that the House included an increase in funding for the domestic family planning program by $28 million. I just saw with my own eyes how those dollars will be put to good use for real-live people.

On to the Senate…

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