Women’s Health and the Budget

Women’s Health and the Budget

Women’s health, politics and the federal budget: Why Planned Parenthood and DC funded abortions became key bargaining chips in threats to close the federal government.

The House votes tomorrow on the budget deal struck late last Friday for funding the government for the balance of fiscal 2011. Negotiations on the $1 trillion dollar plan nearly collapsed over two items: federal funding for Planned Parenthood health services and the question of whether the DC could use it own revenues to help low income women pay for abortions. Given the size of the overall budget, the dollars involved were minuscule, but the questions are at the heart of national social policy debate. Join us to talk about women's health and the budget.

Guests

Sarah Brown

ceo, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy

Marjorie Dannenfelser

president, Susan B. Anthony List

Laura Meckler

White House correspondent, The Wall Street Journal.

Cecile Richards

president, Planned Parenthood

Program Highlights

In last week's down-to-the-wire 2011 federal budget brawl, two issues related to women's health became major points of contention: disagreement over federal funds for Planned Parenthood and the question of whether D.C. should be allowed to use its own money to help women pay for abortions.

The BBC's Katty Kay, sitting in for Diane Rehm, explored why women's health issues figured so prominently in the national budget debate.

"If we think back to the health care debate, abortion was a huge issue there that threatened to sink the entire Obama health care plan," said the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler. "There are a group of social conservatives in Congress who feel very, very strongly about this issue, and they're willing to push it all the way to the mat."

One Republican proposal during the Congressional budget debate would have stripped Planned Parenthood of all federal funding; another sought to restore a ban on the District of Columbia using local money to fund abortions. While the Planned Parenthood proposal is now off the table, the proposed D.C. ban is the compromise Congress will eventually vote on, Meckler said.

Central to the Republican argument in favor of stripping Planned Parenthood's funding is the fact that the provider performs abortions. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said that abortion is "not a small part" of what Planned Parenthood does and that the budget debate "...has been over whether we should be supporting the number one abortion provider in the nation."

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said that 97 percent of the organization's services are preventive care, including breast exams, STD screenings, and birth control. "One of the problems in America is that there is very little access to affordable family planning. And, in fact, even health centers, like Planned Parenthood or other providers who provide family planning through federal programs, have to raise outside private dollars to help supplement those services because the reimbursement rates are so low, they don't even begin to pay for the cost of family planning in America," Richards said.

Sarah Brown of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy asked Richards how she could guarantee that the organization never used federal funds to facilitate abortion services, or, put another way, address the issue of "fungibility."

"For more than 30 years, federal funds have been strictly prohibited from paying for any abortion services. And that's true, again, not only for Planned Parenthood, but all hospitals in America. We all operate under the same regulation, and the federal funds that are provided to Planned Parenthood are reimbursed," Richards said.

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The Diane Rehm Show is produced by member-supported WAMU 88.5 in Washington DC.