Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), chairman of the House Labor, Health and Human Service and Education Committee, has proposed a far-reaching anti-choice bill that boasts $6.2 billion in spending cuts, many of which are achieved through attacks on services for women’s reproductive health.
Rehberg’s bill (PDF), which has yet to undergo a committee vote, proposes cuts to various women’s health services, including cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. It also allows employers to opt out of insuring women employees’ contraception coverage for ‘moral reasons’ and authorizes spending on abstinence-only education, which is widely deemed ineffective at reducing teen pregnancy, STIs or the onset of sexual activity.
Planned Parenthood issued a statement objecting to the cuts, calling the bill an “unprecedented suite of attacks on women’s health.”
“This budget proposal is badly out of touch with the needs of American women and families. Chairman Denny Rehberg and the House Republican leadership clearly don’t think that their constituents care about their access to health care. They could not be more wrong,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Eliminating vital preventive programs like the national family planning program and attacking women’s health providers will mean that millions of women would lose access to basic, preventive health services, and those are economic issues for millions of families.”
The bill requires any clinic that receives Title X family planning funding to encourage “family participation in the decision of minors to seek family planning services and that it provides counseling to minors on how to resist attempts to coerce minors into engaging in sexual activities,” and mandates no clinic receiving Title X funds “shall be exempt from any State law requiring notification or the reporting of child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, or incest.” This directly violates laws that attempt to ensure patient-doctor confidentiality, such as the Health Information Privacy Act (HIPAA).
When it comes to employer heath insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the bill said an employer can ban birth control coverage if it “objects to such items or services on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Catholic bishops famously opposed coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans even held an all-male hearing to discuss allowing employers to deny coverage. Ultimately the Obama administration offered a compromise in which they would require the insurance companies, not the employers, to cover the cost of contraception as preventative care.
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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