Republicans Throw Fit Over Family Planning Provisions in Stimulus Bill

Much hay has been made about contraception this week, some good, most of it bad. If you have not heard by now, there was a provision in the House version of the economic stimulus package that would have expanded eligibility for Medicaid-funded family-planning services, which was stripped out after House Republicans threw a fit about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives.

They claimed that their outrage was over the connection -- or lack thereof -- between funding for contraceptives and stimulating the economy, but the truth is far less complicated. Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his friends simply do not like contraception, and they really, really do not want you to be able to access it.

Before we delve too deeply into the misguided hatred of all things contraceptive, let's take a moment to clear up some of the myths they have perpetuated this week about the provision they lobbied so hard to destroy.

What Does the Expanded Eligibility for Medicaid-Funded Family-Planning Services Mean, Anyway?

Right now, Medicaid -- the government's way of paying for health care for low-income women and men -- provides funding for pregnancy-related care for women whose incomes are up to a certain percentage of the federal poverty level (roughly $ 17,600 for a family of three). The provision that was stripped out of the House bill would have allowed states to provide family-planning services to anyone who, based on their income, would be eligible for pregnancy-related care under Medicaid. In other words, if you would qualify for pregnancy-related care under Medicaid, you would also qualify to access family-planning services, including contraceptives, if you do not wish to become pregnant.

Why Is Family Planning Important?

Family-planning services -- counseling, contraception, sex education and preventive health services -- are a critical element of basic health care that helps women and men make socially responsible decisions and build strong families. Contraception is basic health care for women throughout much of their lives -- an average woman who wants two children will spend five years pregnant or trying to get pregnant and roughly 30 years trying to prevent pregnancy.

Publicly supported family planning services help to prevent at least 1.4 million unintended pregnancies every year, thus reducing the need for abortion.

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