Friday, May 15, 2009

Reducing 'Abortion' vs' 'Unintended Pregnancy' - Part 2

(Please see update after post.)

In Part 1 of this series we looked at the Pregnant Women Support Act which is a good bill being sold under the rubric of "reducing abortion" by providing direct support to pregnant women and their families.

In this post we'll look at the Prevention First Act which is being sold under the rubric of "reducing unintended pregnancy" and sometimes "reducing the need for abortion."

Unlike the Pregnant Women Support Act, the President and a clear majority of the Democratic Caucus support the Prevention First Act. Both were introduced as well in prior Congressional sessions. As a Senator, the president did not support the former, but was a cosponsor of the Prevention First Act.

PFA was introduced into the current Congressional session by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) in the House and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) in the Senate. It currently has 136 Democrat and 2 Republican cosponsors in the House. In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by 23 Democrats, 1 Republican and 1 Independent. The bill is supported by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Here's what it does:

1. Appropriates "$700,000,000 for fiscal year 2010 and such sums as may be necessary for each subsequent fiscal year" for Title X Family Planning. The previous allocation was $300,000,000 which had to be renewed each year. Title X is a major source of funding for Planned Parenthood.

2. Requires all group health plans to include contraceptive prescriptions and devices and contraceptive outpatient services. There is no exception for religious employers or any allowance for conscientious objection.

3. Disseminate to the public through non-profits, government agencies and the media information on emergency contraception including recommendation for usage and availability. Emergency contraception is defined as a drug regimen prescribed after intercourse that "prevents pregnancy, by preventing ovulation, fertilization of an egg, or implantation of an egg in a uterus."

4. Every hospital receiving any federal funds must provide emergency contraception to any woman claiming to be a victim of sexual assault or "whom hospital personnel have reason to believe is a victim of sexual assault." The woman must also be told, "emergency contraception does not cause an abortion."

5. ". . .award on a competitive basis grants to public and private entities to establish or expand teenage pregnancy prevention programs. . . Grant recipients under this section may include State and local not-for-profit coalitions working to prevent teenage pregnancy. . .Funds under this section are not intended for use by abstinence-only education programs."

6. ". . .any information concerning the use of a contraceptive provided through any federally funded sex education, family life education, abstinence education, comprehensive health education, or character education program shall be medically accurate and shall include health benefits and failure rates relating to the use of such contraceptive."

7. Expand family planning services to certain eligible individuals. Such services "shall be limited to family planning services and supplies described in 1905(a)(4)(C) and, at the State's option, medical diagnosis or treatment services that are provided in conjunction with a family planning service in a family planning setting provided during the period in which such an individual is eligible."

8. ". . .may make grants to eligible States to conduct sex education programs, including programs that provide education on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS."

As you can see, not a single word about economic assistance or support to women in crisis pregnancies. This bill is entirely different from the Pregnant Women Support Act. This is strongly testified to by the fact that of 198 sponsors of the two bills, only a single member of congress is a sponsor of both. And yet, many of the president's Catholic apologists are trying to conflate the two approaches. That will be the subject of our next post.

UPDATE - Please see Cardinal Rigali's letter in support of the Senate Re-Introduction of the Pregnant Women Support Act (pdf). It very clearly distinguishes that bill from this horrible Prevention First Act. Note to USCCB Communications Office - Stop making important announcements as locked pdfs. You might as well throw them in the garbage.