House Passes Bill Aiming To Reduce Unintended Pregnancies

Armen Hareyan's picture

The Los Angeles Timeson Thursday examined a "striking shift" in Democratic policies onabortion, marked by the inclusion of a "grab bag" of programs that aimto prevent unintended pregnancies and "encourage women who do conceiveto carry to term" in a spending measure the House approved last week.According to the Times, Democrats first "field teste[d]" the policy shift during gubernatorial races in Michigan and Ohio last year, and Democratic presidential candidates increasingly are making a "more nuanced case" about abortion (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 7/26).

The House-approved $152 billion fiscal year 2008 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 3043) includes the "Reducing the Need for Abortions Initiative." The $647 million package includes many provisions from a bill (HR 1074) introduced by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) (DeLauro release,7/19). The House last week voted 276-140 to approve the appropriationsmeasure, which also includes increases in funding for HHS' Community-Based Abstinence Education Programand for the Title X family planning program. The Senate has not yetacted on the companion Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/20).


Theinitiative would provide funding to counsel more young women toconsider adoption and not abortion; launch an advertising campaign toeducate low-income women that health care and other resources could beprovided if they are "preparing for birth"; expand medical services andparenting education for pregnant women; and provide day care at federaljob-training centers, the Times reports. According to the Times,Democrats have rejected some proposals that conservatives have said areeffective in reducing the number of abortions, such as requiring womento view ultrasound images.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.),co-chair of the bipartisan Pro Choice Caucus, said, "We are willing totalk about anything that helps women make good choices." She added thatpreventing unplanned pregnancies "is not the whole story." Ryan, whoopposes abortion rights, said Democrats for the first time are sendinga message to pregnant women that if they bring the fetus to term, thegovernment will "provide" for them.

Some conservatives accuseDemocrats of using abortion rhetoric to "sell the right on traditionalliberal priorities," including health care funding, the Timesreports. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said the initiative is "not a commonground [he] can accept" because of the amount of family planningfunding that would go to Planned Parenthood clinics.

According to the Times, theinitiative also has "drawn barbs" from some Democrats. Rep. LouiseSlaughter (D-N.Y.) has called on her party to promote contraception useand not attempt to influence pregnant women's choices. "I don't believeany woman decides between having an abortion or not on the basis of 'Isthere day care available?'" Slaughter said, adding, "Our aim here is tolet women know we can help them not get pregnant" (Los Angeles Times, 7/26).

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