Birth control as a way to save the economy? You're joking, right?
President Obama's administration wasn't joking when they originally included the Medicaid Family Planning State Option in his mega-stimulus plan. The provision would have put $200 million into reproductive health care coverage, making it easier for low-income women to get birth control.
The idea? According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, better access to family planning would mean fewer unplanned pregnancies -- and less economic stress for low income families, who often utilize government assistance in times of financial need.
But last week, Obama's administration scrapped the proposal after several members of Congress vocally opposed it. According to one Democratic aide, the "firestorm of criticism" around the program "ended up being a distraction."
One major critic of the proposal was House Minority Leader John Boehner (heh-heh, Boehner) of Ohio, who asked, "How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?"
We think Bonehead, er, Boehner missed a report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy revealing that teen pregnancy alone costs taxpayers $9.1 billion annually. What's more, it's estimated that in three years, the contraception measure would have actually saved $100 million a year by preventing some unwanted pregnancies.
Click here to read how women's groups responded.
Women's Groups Respond to Attacks
Naturally, many women's groups can't understand why the new administration would deny millions of women better access to reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood Federation of America also points out that the act would have offered more general health care services, such as cancer screenings and preventive care, to women in need.
"We are disappointed that the Medicaid Family Planning State Option, a commonsense provision to expand basic health care to millions of women, including many who have lost their jobs in the current economic downturn, was a victim of misleading attacks and partisan politics," said PPFA President Cecile Richards.
Think Progress says the measure would have helped states get care to women more quickly by cutting out the red tape currently required.
"No one would be forcing states to pay for family planning services ... this bill would simply allow states to skip the administrative delays."
A Petition for Progress
Meanwhile, more than 3,700 people have signed a petition to get the provision back in the stimulus plan.
Signer Mary from Virginia saw the act as a no-brainer and calls its removal a "ridiculous, obtuse political move." "... Deny a poor woman contraceptives so she'll have a few more babies and place herself even further from becoming self-supporting. I cannot even begin to imagine what could have inspired this stupidity."
Amanda from Maryland thinks the measure would energize the economy and keep more people off public assistance:
"Fewer unwanted pregnancies means fewer people on welfare, fewer unwanted children bouncing through the foster care system, fewer unwanted children growing up to become criminals clogging our justice system, and more women being able to care for not just their bodies but also their families."
Signer Kevin in Ohio has seen firsthand the importance of family planning as a social worker.
"As abstinence-only education has been shown not to be effective, it is imperative that we as a nation provide family planning services."
Tell us: Should the family planning provision go back in the stimulus plan? What else do you want the president to do to address the health care needs of women?