MEMO: On Family Planning, Romney and Republicans Redefine Right-Wing
TO: Interested Parties
FR: Bill Burton, Priorities USA Action
RE: Sunday Memo: On Family Planning, Romney and Republicans Redefine Right-Wing
This week we saw another dramatic example of the opposition and activism generated by efforts to defund Planned Parenthood on the part of right-wing activists.
Yet still, perhaps the most under-covered example of the 2012 Republican Presidential candidates’ embrace of the far right is the new Republican litmus test on family planning.
For the last several decades it has been unfortunate Republican orthodoxy that their Presidential candidates must support outlawing abortion. Now apparently, the standard is not just opposing legal abortion, but also counter intuitively opposing efforts to reduce abortion. Just this week, Mitt Romney’s campaign told the New York Times that he supported abolishing all federal family planning funding.
Throughout most of its existence, Title X has been a noncontroversial program. It began under Nixon and has usually seen broad bipartisan support. The program covers birth control, STD screenings, and cervical-cancer exams for nearly 5 million Americans while explicitly not funding abortion. It is credited with improving women’s health and, of course, significantly reducing the number of abortions.
And Republicans have gone beyond Title X. Romney and the Republicans either ignore or discount a mountain of scientific evidence that access to contraception reduces unwanted pregnancies, reduces abortions, and reduces health care costs. They are active participants in the war on Planned Parenthood, an organization that enjoys broad public support for providing reproductive health services to millions.
Unlike the sometimes polarizing debate over abortion, there is a broad bipartisan consensus that the federal government should provide funding for birth control and that insurance companies should be required to cover it. Romney’s opposition to contraception access runs counter to overwhelming public opinion: A Reuters poll found 77% of Americans support the requirement that health insurance cover contraception and 78% believe the federal government should subsidize family planning services.
Romney and the other Republicans candidates have aligned themselves with a minority within a minority with a moral aversion to contraception they wish to impose on the entire country. It’s a worldview that idealizes the years before women had access to birth control.
Obviously, Romney would prefer that this issue stay out of the spotlight and simply reside in the minds of the few primary voters who share his extreme view until he is actually able to implement his promise from the White House.
While we don’t know the basis for Romney’s opposition to birth control access, the practical implication would be a substantial decrease in health care for millions of women and a substantial increase in the number of abortions in America.
Title X family planning was introduced with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by President Nixon. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “In 1970, Congress enacted Title X of the Public Health Service Act, the only federal program—then and now—devoted solely to the nationwide provision of family planning services. Introduced with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Nixon, Title X was designed to make contraceptive supplies and services available to all who want and need them but are unable to afford them without government assistance. The new program sought to fulfill Nixon's historic 1969 promise that "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition." [Guttmacher Institute, April 2001]
Providing increased access to contraception would reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, “But by providing access to contraceptive services and supplies to all women who would be eligible for a Medicaid-funded birth if they became pregnant, the equity strategy would be the most cost-effective. Although the impact would differ from state to state this approach would cost $800 million but avert $2.3 billion in costs from unplanned births for a net savings of $1.5 billion in Medicaid costs in the third year of the program's operation. It would enable nearly 500,000 women to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, reducing the number of un-planned pregnancies nationwide by 15%. Doing so would prevent nearly 200,000 abortions, cutting the number of abortions by 15% as well. Moreover, the effort would help 225,000 women avoid an unplanned birth each year.” [Guttmacher Institute, Summer 2006]
Mitt Romney has promised to eliminate Title X family planning. According to the New York Times, “But the Republican candidates have said that moral and religious values weigh heavily in birth control issues. Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney, said in an e-mail that he regarded the administration’s rule requiring religious employers to furnish birth control as wrong. “This is a direct attack on religious liberty and will not stand in a Romney presidency,” she said. Mr. Romney has also pledged to end a federal program, Title X, that provides family planning services to millions of women.” [New York Times, 1/29/12]
Title X family planning benefits millions of Americans each year. According to the Washington Post, "Created in 1970 during the Nixon years, Title X covers reproductive health services like birth control, STD screenings, and cervical-cancer exams. In 2008, the program reached about 5 million Americans, mostly women. While the program does provide funds to abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, federal law bars the program from covering abortion procedures." [Washington Post, 11/4/11]
Mitt Romney has promised to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. In remarks delivered at the 2011 Values Voter Summit, Mitt Romney said “Our values must also encompass the life of an unborn child. There are, of course, strong convictions on both sides of the life issue. Yet, it speaks well of our country that almost all Americans recognize that abortion is a problem. The law may call it a right, but no one ever called it a good. And in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America. I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. As president, I will end federal funding for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood.” [MittRomney.com, 10/8/11]
Mitt Romney has promised to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. In a pledge published on his campaign website, Mitt Romney pledges that, “I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services.” [MittRomney.com, 6/18/11]
In a poll conducted by Thomson Reuters, a majority of respondents supported requiring health insurance to cover contraception and government subsidies for family planning services. According to NPR, “American consumers are broadly in favor of oral contraceptive coverage by both private and government-subsidized health insurance plans according to the NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll. […] The poll finds that 77 percent of respondents believe private insurance should cover most or all cost of oral contraceptives, and 74 percent believe government-subsidized insurance plans should cover birth control pills. Additionally, 78 percent said they believe the federal government should subsidize birth control and other family planning services, excluding abortion, at government-funded clinics for low-income women.” [NPR-Thomson Reuters Poll, 6/10/11]