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Family Planning Funds Discussed

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) are sponsoring a measure that would increase access to birth control information and services.

National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) President Kate Michelman said that the 3 million annual accidental pregnancies are a sign that many people do not have access to the information and health services they need to “responsibly manage their reproductive lives.”

The measure would require insurance to cover birth control prescribed by doctors, and would start a public awareness campaign about emergency contraception. It would also seek an increase in federal family planning funds, increased STD research, approval of RU-486, removal of government-imposed restrictions on health care providers regarding information on abortion, and full legalization of Roe v. Wade.

In a similar vein, Abiya Inayatullah, president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, met with House members last week to encourage them to support international family planning funds. Like Boxer and Lowey, she seeks to reduce abortion rates by providing better birth control services.

Recent House amendments proposed that no U.S. funds be used for family planning services that also provide abortion services. While the sponsors, such as Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), think reducing the funds will reduce the abortion rate, Inayatullah called that attitude “unconscionable” and said they were not living in the real world. She invited Rep. Smith and other supporters to travel with her to developing countries with poor family planning services, and talk to illiterate, impoverished women first-hand. “You cannot continue to play politics when it comes to the lives of women around the world.”

Inayatullah said that the loss of $62 million in international family planning funds since 1995 has caused more abortions and rising maternal death rates. Seven million couples in developing countries lost access to contraceptives, leading to four million unwanted pregnancies, 1.6 million additional abortions, and 8,000 more maternal deaths.

Sources:

Washington Post & AP - September 24, 1997