In the wake of the midterm elections, one thing is abundantly clear — despite the sweeping losses Democrats faced, support of women’s health care was widespread and played a determinative role. For the first time in recent memory, we saw conservative candidates distance themselves from their previous records and move toward embracing expanded access to women’s health care in an effort to appeal to women voters and our allies. Moderates were elected, and the public expects moderates to govern.
In the lame duck session of this Congress, elected officials from both parties have four key opportunities to deliver for women: fund family planning and cancer screenings for low-income women, fund comprehensive sex education programs, provide no-copay birth control to all military personnel, and provide equitable abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers so that they can access abortion in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the woman, the same coverage as other federal employees and servicewomen. Enacting these commonsense policies to support women’s access to health care in an omnibus appropriations bill and the Defense Authorization bill would demonstrate that policymakers in Washington, DC, heard the message from voters across the country.
Funding for Title X Family Planning in Appropriations Legislation
Twenty million women are in need of publicly funded family planning care, and Title X provides millions of women with important services, including lifesaving screenings for breast and cervical cancers.
The Title X Family Planning Program, which was enacted by a Republican administration and enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, is a vital component of the health care safety net, and one of our nation’s most effective programs in reducing unintended pregnancies and providing women’s health care to those who need it most.
We urge Congress to include funding for this critical program in any omnibus appropriations legislation.
Planned Parenthood supports a minimum of $300 million in funding for this program, the funding level included in the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Subcommittee reported bill.
Funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in Appropriations Legislation
The U.S. has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates among the world’s developed nations, and nearly 615,000 teenagers in the U.S. will become pregnant this year. On top of that, young people contract about half of the 20 million sexually transmitted diseases annually, despite only making up one-quarter of the sexually active population.
We urge Congress to provide adequate funding to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program run through the Office of Adolescent Health. Planned Parenthood supports a minimum of $101 million for this program to be included in the omnibus appropriations legislation.
Medically accurate and comprehensive sex education programs are effective in helping young people delay the initiation of sex, and in increasing the use of condoms and birth control when they do have sex. Decades of polling show that the vast majority of Americans — and parents in particular — support sex education.
Congress must also discontinue funding for the ineffective and fiscally irresponsible programs that emphasize abstinence, provide inaccurate information, and have been proven to not delay sexual initiation or lower rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. In fact, the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine stated that these programs are “poor fiscal and public health policy” that should be eradicated.
Contraception Coverage for Active Military Personnel in the Defense Authorization Bill
Women that serve in the military are still denied coverage of birth control without a copay, despite polling that shows more than one in three women voters have struggled to afford birth control — and as a result, haven’t used it consistently. Contraception is basic, preventive health care for women and more than 70 percent of voters believe it should be covered by insurance without a copay.
Congress must act on behalf of our service members by including language in the defense authorization bill to provide contraception coverage for all military personnel and their dependents so the women who receive their care through the US military have the same access to no-copay birth control as all other American women with health insurance.
Parity for Peace Corps Volunteers in State, Foreign-Ops Appropriations Legislation
The Peace Corps is currently one of the only sectors of the US government that denies women coverage for abortion in all cases.
More than half of all Peace Corps volunteers are women, and according to internal Peace Corps statistics, hundreds of volunteers were raped or sexually assaulted between 2000 and 2009. These volunteers put their safety on the line in their invaluable service, and deserve the same protections we provide to other women throughout the federal government.
A commonsense and bipartisan provision to provide equitable abortion coverage to Peace Corp volunteers in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the woman passed in House and Senate Committees earlier this year — the furthest progress to date and a significant milestone — must be maintained in a final FY15 omnibus bill.
By moving to support these four measures in the lame duck session, Congress can send a clear message to women that their voices were heard in the 2014 elections. Voters — across party lines — support access to safe and legal abortion, affordable birth control and medically accurate comprehensive sex education.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
November 12, 2014