Contraception is Being Used as a Football in Debate on Federal Stimulus Package

Note: This post has been updated below.

Less than 24 hours after completing my happy dance over the Obama Administration’s repeal of the Bush Administration’s global gag rule and midnight DHHS regulation (eventually), Senate Republicans have once again decided to use contraception as a political football in their efforts to turn the Obama Administration’s stimulus package into a set of tax cuts. 

I have three questions for Representative John Boehner and his colleagues:

  1. What is it about contraception with you guys?
  2. You do know that contraception is not abortion, right?
  3. Do you want all Americans to stop having sex? Because that’s what it seems like.

Or maybe it’s just poor Americans? As TPM’s Elana Schor points out, Repubican lawmakers oppose helping states provide women’s health care in the federal stimulus package:

“First of all, the family-planning program that Pelosi supports expanding in the stimulus bill was created in 1972 under the leadership of Republican president Richard Nixon.”

What’s being proposed is an expansion in the number of states that can use Medicaid money, with a federal match, to help low-income women prevent unwanted pregnancies. Of the 26 states that already have Medicaid waivers for family planning, eight are led by Republican governors (AL, FL, MS, SC, CA, LA, MN and RI — a ninth, MO, had a GOP governor until this past November). If this policy is truly a taxpayer gift to “the abortion industry,” as John Boehner and House Republicans claim, where are the GOP governors promising to end the program in their states?

Additionally, the process of obtaining a waiver for Medicaid family-planning coverage is extremely cumbersome. A letter written by Wisconsin health regulators in 2007 noted that some states have had to wait for as long as two years before their request was approved. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that eliminating the waiver requirement would save states $400 million over 10 years.” (emphasis mine)

That’s right. Republican lawmakers all of a sudden don’t support a Republican program and a waiver that will save $400 million dollars. Makes perfect sense, right?

Of course what these new talking points are really about is Republican members of Congress searching for a scapegoat to flog in the Democratic stimulus plan in order to appear fiscally responsible while protesting the bill. When all else fails, their impulse is to whip up a an irresponsible dialogue about contraception and abortion…..again. Like Digby says:

“Boehner’s cute soundbite about contraceptives is, of course, nonsense. The money he’s talking about is for medicaid, which is desperately needed at a time when people are losing their jobs — and, by the way, will help stimulate the economy by paying the doctors, pharmacies and hospitals for the (much increased) care they give, something that is a big problem at a time when states are going broke.”

During the worst financial crisis in American history since the Great Depression, this kind of assistance is necessary for state governments, but you can always county on Republican lawmakers to pick on the women and children first. Forget about the men redecorarting their offices and buying corporate jets. They deserver bailouts.


Unfortunately, about an hour after I wrote this post, it appears that Obama may be caving to the House Republicans’ whose hissy fit seems to have paid off. From the AP:

“House Democrats are likely to jettison family planning funds for the low-income from an $825 billion economic stimulus bill, officials said late Monday, following a personal appeal from President Barack Obama at a time the administration is courting Republican critics of the legislation.”

This is very disappointing news. Once again it appears that it’s women who will suffer at the hands of “bipartisanship.” What do you guys think? Am I over-reacting?


Sherie H.
Sherie H9 years ago

We can fantasize that all parents can teach children that sleeping around is wrong, we can fantasize that teaching our children it's wrong will actually work. But we cannot control our children and they will make decisions we don't approve of.
We can also fantasize that 'back in the good ol' days' people were moral and had more common sense. But we had harsh social shunning to punish those that actually showed their immorality by becoming pregnant, and people seeing it. It was a taboo subject. But it still happened anyway. It was just hidden.
Hormones are hormones and we have more access to stronger illegal drugs which play a large roll in irresponsible sexual behavior.
We would either have to pay for a woman to carry a baby to term and then support that child for life, or find a family for a disabled child, whom few want to adopt. And then pay for the rest of their lives either for medical care or incarceration or welfare. Many children growing up with drug addicted parents end up quite dysfunctional.
So we have a choice, do we want to pay now or do we want to pay a whole lot more later? Do we want to ruin 2 lives or allow a woman to choose when she's ready to take on the HUGE challenge of raising a child.

Robyn E.
Robyn E9 years ago

This certainly is disappointing. I'm going to let this set-back be the end of the story though! Please sign the petition to Congress at: Thanks!

Irene K.
Irene K9 years ago

Oh my God help us in this so called enlightened society(s), give me back the old days, where morality, and common sense prevailed. Where every personal decision was not a political debate funded with tax payer money- hey I have an idea ..let's teach children that sleeping around is wrong, and if you do YOU face the consequences not every one else in the world!

Lyn C.
Lyn C9 years ago

What is it with these Republican legislators, they can't get their way on one part of a bill, so they'll start the personal rights of women again. Guys get through you heads it's a womans right and besides it will save you money. If someone poor doesn't get pregnant look at all the money you'll save. I know I'm getting cycical, but this picky , childish, I'll give you this bu I want that, and heck with the actual people the issue involves. Remember you legislators are voting on the issues of real people.

Tracy Viselli
Tracy Viselli9 years ago

Also, make it clear to your elected officials in Washington that your are NOT HAPPY.

Kathy F.
Kathleen F9 years ago

All members of the House of Representatives have to be re-elected in two years. We need to research the records of the people running and vote for those who will protect women's right to make their own decisions about family planning and not insist on controlling women in this way. This is a power issue. I believe the people who vote to control women's reproductive rights (including many women) are opposed to equality for women. They're angry at the successes of the women's equality movement and want to turn back the tide to the 1950s. Don't let them do it!

Denise Redmond
Denise Redmond9 years ago

It's unfathomable to me, as a Canadian, that these family planning policies are so controversial. As the well-being of women goes collectively, so goes the rest of the nation. The UN has plenty of documentation on improvement in family well-being when women have access to education, health and financial stability. (i.e. self-determination)When will North Americans truly grasp that?

Cynthia Heller
C Heller9 years ago

Talk loud. Talk now. Join NARAL. Keep bugging your representatives until they know that women, of whom close to 90% use birth control at some point in their lives, are paying attention and voting accordingly. And make sure our friends know that these idiots really are after birth control, not just abortion (a common misconception I find among my and my kids' friends).

Sherie H.
Sherie H9 years ago

I'm not surprised the Republicans wanted that off the table and I'm not surprised the Democrats caved in. But it can always be part of another bill. This isn't the end of that.

Birth control is a taboo issue in this country with all of the fundamentalist, religious Republicans and Democrats. But then, how did Obama become president? Maybe it's because it's really not an 'economic stimulus issue'?

But I'm hoping this will come up soon in another bill. Maybe I'm dreaming. It's idiotic to think that they don't even want to make contraceptives and family planning available?

Pamela C.
Pamela C9 years ago

Sick little mysogynistic bigots, narrow-minded people who have nothing better to do than make life miserable for people they are supposed to represent.