President Barack Obama signed the FY 2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which includes several major gains for women’s health and civil liberties, yesterday. The legislation eliminates traditional sources of funding for abstinence-only programs and instead provides funding for “a new evidence-based teenage pregnancy prevention initiative.” The bill calls for $114.5 million to be appropriated for the new programs, which will include age appropriate and medically accurate information on both contraception and abstinence. The funds will be distributed through the new Office of Adolescent Health under the Department of Health and Human Services.
The District of Columbia also made major gains with the passage of the bill. A provision that would eliminate a long-time prohibition on using DC-raised monies for abortion assistance within the District is in the final legislation as well as a provision overturning a ban on medical marijuana in the District. The ACLU, has worked for an end to the abortion funding ban for years and argued that “the District of Columbia ought to have the right, like other states, to use its own local, non-federal revenue to provide abortion care to its low-income residents.” Medical marijuana was originally legalized within the District by an overwhelming referendum vote in the 1990s, but Congress prevented the implementation of the referendum’s results.
The final legislation did not include a Senate amendment that would have permanently repealed the Global Gag Rule. In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment that would have overturned the “Mexico City Policy” first instituted by President Reagan in 1984. The policy was repealed by President Clinton, reinstituted by George W. Bush and rescinded by President Obama in January. When implemented, the policy bars international aid organizations that receive US funds from using any funds (from the US or other sources) to provide abortion counseling and services. According to the International Women’s Health Coalition, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) spearheaded an effort in the conference committee to preserve this provision.