This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

House Votes to Cut Funding to Planned Parenthood--Will the Senate Agree?

A major news item surrounding the US House of Representatives debates on amendments to HR1--the government funding bill passed last week--was the vote to prevent any Title X funding from being received by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 
The Title X Family Planning program ["Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Programs" (Public Law 91-572)], was enacted in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.
Although any organization receiving Title X funding is forbidden by law from using any of that money for abortion services, and Planned Parenthood has repeatedly said that no Title X money is used for that purpose, that was still the reason given by Rep. Mike Pence (R. Indiana) for introducing what has been called a vindictive measure against Planned Parenthood. As the Huffington Post noted:

The vote, which passed, 240 to 185, came after an emotional, late-night speech by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who revealed on the House floor that she had had an abortion. Speier criticized Republicans for vilifying Planned Parenthood and abortion-rights supporters.
"There is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood, and it was played out in this room tonight," she said on the House floor. "Planned Parenthood has a right to operate. Planned Parenthood has a right to provide family planning services. Planned parenthood has a right to perform abortions. Last time you checked, abortions were legal in this country."
Democrats, particularly female members of Congress, came out hard against the Pence amendment, calling it an attack based on politics. It is not the first by the House GOP this year: Republicans have also proposed bills that would allow hospitals to turn away women in need of emergency abortions or would limit funding for abortions to rape victims who can prove their rape is "forcible." (The latter language was dropped amid outrage from women's rights advocates).
All of the available evidence suggests that the best way to reduce the demand for abortion in any country is to increase the availability of contraceptives to sexually active people. Withdrawing federal support from Planned Parenthood will only undermine that goal, and is likely to lead to an increase in abortions, rather than a decline. We will have to see if the US Senate sees the world from this perspective and votes to restore funding for Planned Parenthood in its version of the federal funding legislation.

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