Republicans Must Support Public Financing for Contraception

January 3, 2013 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, United States, News

Republicans Must Support Public Financing for Contraception
Published: December 27, 2012


TWO weeks ago, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, proposed making oral contraceptives available “over the counter.” This was a remarkable – and wholly positive – postelection development. It is just the sort of bold thinking the Republican Party needs to overcome its reputation for being unsympathetic to women’s concerns. (Last month, President Obama won the women’s vote by a margin of 10 percentage points.)

Making the party more appealing to women, however, should not – and need not – involve undermining the most basic Republican values. In the case of childbirth, the Republicans’ primary commitment is to the pro-life cause – and hence to reducing the number of abortions in the country. But abortion opponents should be pro-contraception, since making contraception as affordable and available as possible reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies and thus abortions.

In fact, historically, Republican lawmakers have voted to maintain or increase financing for the Title X Family Planning Program, which was enacted in 1970 under President Richard M. Nixon and currently provides about $300 million a year to state and local organizations for contraceptive care for low-income women. According to a 2009 Congressional Research Service report, Title X prevents almost a million unwanted pregnancies each year.

But in 2011 and 2012, the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservatives in the House of Representatives, proposed defunding Title X. The reason? Twenty-five percent of Title X funds go to Planned Parenthood, which not only provides contraceptive care but noisily advocates for abortion rights. Though federal law prohibits the use of Title X funds for abortions, the close association between Planned Parenthood and the abortion-rights movement has discouraged Republicans from channeling funds to the organization. This creates a serious public-relations problem for the Republicans. By trying to defund Planned Parenthood, Republicans can seem unsympathetic not just to abortion, but also to the plight of low-income and underinsured women who receive contraceptive care through the group’s clinics.

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