Bush Budget Slashes Women’s Health Funding

Amie Newman

President Bush's proposed budget is released today. In what seems like his final farewell to women's health, international family planning and domestic health care programs are slashed and gutted.

Wow. Just wow.

You wouldn't think President Bush would be working at this point to make his reign-of-disaster even worse.

He's only got a few months left and we're all consumed with those darn campaigns so maybe he thinks no one is watching?

It's not enough though, to rest on his destructive laurels. It's like some kind of withdrawal process for him (though not the kind progressives have been hoping for); wait too long between the slashing of taxpayer funded services for those who desperately need them and he starts twitching and shaking.

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President Bush released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2009 today and guess what? Funding for international family planning and other sexual and reproductive health programs is cut by almost 30%.

According to Population Action International (PAI), the proposed budget:

"…continues a disturbing downward trend in funding for these vital health programs for women and families."

Funding for family planning and other sexual and reproductive health services has decreased by almost $100 million since 1995. This reduction has occurred despite the fact that: 1) the number of women of reproductive age has increased in the developing world by 275 million women and 2) President Bush's own administration has reported that family planning is an effective way of combating HIV/AIDS worldwide.

It's hard to underestimate the impact of not funding reproductive health and family planning programs for women and their families in developing nations. Coupled with President Bush's refusal to release almost $200 million that Congress has consistently appropriated to the UNFPA, and the nefarious global gag rule (yes, nefarious – as it clearly ensures that women are not given access to family planning tools or a full range of options when pregnant), this consistent underfunding of crucial health programs will help peg President Bush's administration as one of the most dangerous to global women's health in history.

President Bush's own wife and daughter understand the importance of smart family planning programs. Maybe he needs a family sit-down?

Amy Coen, President of PAI, has this to say about the slash in funding:

"There is a huge and growing imbalance around the world. While increasing numbers of women are crying out for family planning and reproductive health services, the U.S. is giving less funding each year to help them and their families. We urge Congress to reject these cuts and boost funding for these programs which enable women to make choices that can create healthy, stable families."

The proposed budget also slashes Medicare and Medicaid, reduces CDC spending, and cuts funding for a host of hospital programs including rural health care programs, training programs for physicians at children's hospitals.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement in The Washington Post said, "The president is proposing to once again slash health care coverage for seniors and low-income working Americans. The president's cuts are exactly the wrong medicine when the cost of health care and the number of uninsured continue to rise and families are feeling economically insecure."

On all counts, President Bush's budget does wrong by women and families. Ironic that with the Democratic presidential candidates scrambling to tell Americans how well we'd fare under their health care plans, we'll be living with the legacy, at least for awhile, of a president's failed policies to adequately care for his citizens.

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