"How can you spend hundreds
of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the
So asks House Republican leader
John Boehner (R-OH) in decrying the inclusion of a provision making
it easier for states to expand contraceptive services under Medicaid
in the economic stimulus package the House is expected to vote on later
this week – and we’d be happy to answer.
First of all, assisting states
with their Medicaid programs is a proven and effective strategy for
stimulating the economy in times of economic distress. That’s why
the stimulus package contains $87 billion to help states with
Medicaid costs. One can only assume that Rep. Boehner’s singling out
for criticism the Medicaid spending for contraception is politically
Not only is it politically
motivated, it is highly ironic coming from a self-described fiscal conservative
who repeatedly says the stimulus package should include spending that
doesn’t increase the deficit. When the Congressional Budget Office
assessed a virtually identical provision in 2007, it found that it would
save the federal government $200 million over five years by helping
women voluntarily avoid pregnancies that otherwise would result in Medicaid-funded
births. An expansion such as the one permitted by the stimulus package
could save Rep. Boehner’s state of Ohio $1.4 million in 2009 – money
that could make a real difference in a hard-hit state that is struggling
with significant budget shortfalls.
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Coming from a member who is
adamantly antiabortion, Rep. Boehner’s opposition is doubly ironic,
since publicly funded family planning services significantly
reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions that occur. Each year, the contraceptive services
provided just at publicly funded clinics help women avoid 1.4 million
unintended pregnancies, which would result in 640,000 unintended births
and 600,000 abortions. Without these services, the number of abortion
performed each year in the United States would be 49% higher than it
In short, inclusion of the
Medicaid family planning provision in the economic stimulus bill is
eminently justifiable. It’s classic anti-recession economic
policy, it doesn’t increase the deficit, and it reduces unintended
pregnancies and abortions. My question to Rep. Boehner is:
What’s not to like?