The President’s 2010 Budget: A Decidedly Mixed Bag

Sharon Camp

The most disappointing part of the 2010 budget is the continuation of bans on subsidized abortion services for U.S. women who depend on the federal government for health care.

On May 7, President Obama sent
Congress his proposed 2010 budget recommendations. For programs and
policies relating to sexual and reproductive health at home and abroad,
the proposed budget contains some good news, some bad news and some
news that is only okay. The most welcome development is the abolition
of "abstinence-only-until-marriage" programs. The most disappointing
is the failure of leadership the president displayed by sanctioning
the continuation of federal bans on subsidized abortion services for
U.S. women who depend on the federal government for their health care
or health insurance. In reviewing the budget, it is important to remember
it is just a starting point: Congress gets a crack at whether to accept,
reject or modify the president’s recommendations. 

Abstinence-Only Out;
Evidence In
. In a clear victory for evidence-based policies,
the proposed budget ends funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs that ignore or actively denigrate the effectiveness of contraceptives
and safer-sex behaviors. Instead, the president recommends shifting
these funds, plus an additional $15 million-a total of $178 million-to
support a new teen pregnancy prevention initiative that includes a grants-to-states
program and a separate community-based grant program.
Seventy-five percent of the community-based funds would support "comprehensive,
evidence-based programs,"
which have been proven to delay sexual activity, increase contraceptive
use or reduce teenage pregnancy, and 25% of funds would support demonstration
and research grants to test new models and approaches. Abstinence-only
programs could continue to receive funding under the latter category
so long as they have promise, but they would have to compete with other

Access to Abortion: Absence
of Leadership
. The president had the option to assert his prochoice
credentials and propose in his budget that the many abortion funding
restrictions that exist throughout a range of federal health programs
be deleted. The most infamous of these, the Hyde Amendment, prohibits
Medicaid from paying for abortions for poor women. The president chose
politics over principle on this set of issues. His budget proposal leaves
almost all the abortion funding restrictions intact. The one restriction
his budget does recommend changing, as a matter of home rule, is the
one that bans the District of Columbia from using its own local revenues
to pay for abortions for its indigent residents – the way states may
do. The administration is sending an ominous signal about the priority
that access to abortion services will have in the context of health
care reform.   

Domestic Family Planning:
Modest Improvements
. Given all the hoopla surrounding the president’s
initiative to reduce the need for abortion, his budget request is somewhat
underwhelming when it comes to the quintessential middle ground – preventing
unintended pregnancy. The Title X family planning program would receive
a 3%, or $10 million, increase, which would bring funding to $317.5
million from the current $307.5 million. When it comes to Medicaid, the
president proposes congressional action to remove barriers for states
seeking to expand eligibility for family planning. This is a welcome
development and a down payment on the president’s promise from earlier
this year to find a way (other than with the stimulus package) to win
this important policy change. The president’s proposed version in
the budget is somewhat less robust than the version that has been pending
in Congress-one that gives states the option of covering family planning
for the same group of women eligible for pregnancy-related care. The
administration’s proposal would cap the ability of states to extend
coverage to women at 200% of poverty. 

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Services to New Mothers:
The president proposes the creation of a new "home
visitation" program for low-income parents and pregnant women to the
tune of $8.6 billion over the next 10 years. It would be an entitlement
program for states, which would have to apply for the money and put
up their own matching funds. Although some funds would go toward testing
promising newer models, the program would, like the teen pregnancy initiative,
primarily fund models with a strong research evidence base. The most
prominent of those models, the Denver-based Nurse-Family Partnership,
is currently serving more than 16,000 women in 28 states and has been
shown over more than 30 years to have numerous long-term benefits for
children and families, including reductions in preterm births and improved

Global Health Initiative:
Moving Toward a More Integrated Approach
. The president presented
his recommendations for global health funding in the context of his
new Global Health Initiative. "We cannot simply confront individual
preventable illnesses in isolation. The world is interconnected, and
that demands an integrated approach," he said. The idea is to consider
the synergies among global health programs in order to seek a more comprehensive
and integrated approach to fighting disease, improving health and strengthening
health systems. The initiative will focus on preventing millions of
new HIV infections, reducing maternal and newborn deaths, averting millions
of unintended pregnancies and eliminating some neglected tropical diseases.
Over the next six years (FY 2009-2014), the administration plans to
spend $63 billion under the Global Health Initiative, with $51 billion
allocated to global HIV/AIDS and malaria efforts and $12 billion to
other global health priorities, including maternal and child health,
family planning and neglected tropical diseases.  

For FY 2010, the president
is requesting $5.3 billion for the global HIV/AIDS
programs, a slight increase over the current amount. Overall funding
for maternal and child health programs would rise from $494 million
to $524 million. (Maternal health efforts are not broken out separately.)
Funding for international family planning and reproductive
health programs would increase to $543 million-$48 million more than
current levels. Additionally, the president is recommending a $50 million
contribution to the United Nations Population Fund
(UNFPA), the same amount as this year. The budget does propose deleting
all the limitations on the U.S. contribution to UNFPA, including one
that prevents any U.S. funds from being used in UNFPA’s China program
and another that deducts from the annual U.S. contribution the amount
that UNFPA spends in China that same year. If approved by Congress,
the overall amount proposed for international family planning and reproductive
health programs – $593 million – would represent the highest level ever
from the U.S. government.

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