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House Republicans Use Appropriations Process to Undermine Access to Vital Health Care Services and Education

Despite some legislators’ fervent efforts in the waning days of 2010, they were unable to finalize appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011 before the 111th Congress adjourned. Instead, they approved the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Extensions Act, 2011 (P. L. 111-322), a stopgap measure to fund the operations of the federal government until March 4, 2011, which is commonly referred to as a “continuing resolution” (CR). Soon after the beginning of the 112th Congress, the Republicans in the House of Representatives released their Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2011,which slashed discretionary spending in vital areas, including drastically reducing the funding of several offices and programs that are dedicated to protecting and improving the health of Americans. In the early morning hours of February 19, 2011, the House of Representatives, in a party-line vote, passed H.R. 1, a CR authorizing funding for the balance of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2011. The sweeping proposed budget decrease—$61 billion lower than the budget for Fiscal Year 2010 and $100 billion lower than President Obama’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2011—would severely impact health care access and prevention education, particularly that which benefits women, children, and families.
Along with more than 70 other cuts, the continuing resolution eliminates funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative and Title X family planning; and cuts $1.4 billion from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $747 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, $50 million from Maternal and Child Health Block Grants, and $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health. The legislation also slashes $210 million from international family planning funding, reinstating the “global gag rule,” and banning government funding for the United Nations Population Fund.
“With their first major spending proposal, the new Republican majority in the House, led here by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, is showing its true colors. Cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from programs like family planning, the Maternal and Child Health Block Grants, and WIC is not only short sighted, it’s unconscionable. The federal budget should not be balanced on the backs of those who are most vulnerable and in need,” comments Monica Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. 
Whiletrying to pass off the decision to cut so deeply under the guise of deficit reduction, the House Republicans targeted programs that many ultra-conservative members of Congress have been trying to get rid of for years, including our nation’s sexual and reproductive health programs. The elimination of funding for the President’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative would mean that an estimated 800,000 young people would lose necessary access to instruction on how to avoid unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. Elimination of Title X, the nation’s family planning program for low-income individuals, would leave an estimated five million women without access to affordable care.[1] Pregnant women and their progeny also would suffer greatly if the cuts contained in H.R. 1 are enacted. Maternal and Child Health Block Grants, which provide funding for pre- and post-natal care for pregnant women and preventive care for children, would be cut by $50 million. Equally dire for pregnant women, mothers, and children is the proposed $747 million cut to the WIC program. Such a massive cut to WIC would compromise the health of women and their families by reducing, and in some cases eliminating, the WIC subsidies that allow them to purchase nutritious, healthy food. “Approximately half of all U.S. infants and one-fourth of children ages 1 to 4 benefit from WIC.”[2]
House Republicans went even further in their effort to eradicate reproductive rights during the amendment process. Among the 583 amendments proposed to H.R. 1 was one offered by Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) that would prevent Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates from receiving federal funding “for any purpose.”[3] The amendment prompted three emotional hours of debate on the House floor, with opposition led by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and which included Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) sharing her own personal story of abortion. The amendment passed 240–185. Planned Parenthood received a total of $363.2 million in federal grants for Fiscal Year 2009, over one-third of its operating budget.[4] Representative Pence has long sought the elimination of federal funding for all abortion providers—particularly Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that abortion comprises only three percent of its patient services and, by law, none of its government funds are used to subsidize abortions. This draconian slash in funding would severely impact Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide vital health care including contraceptive care, cancer screenings, STD and HIV testing, and fertility treatments, to millions of women, men, and adolescents.
“Family planning and reproductive health are under direct assault by the Republican majority,” comments Rodriguez, adding, “Not only will spending cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, family planning, and Planned Parenthood increase the number of young women who may be faced with an unplanned pregnancy, but the cuts to many of the other programs will eliminate options for prenatal care and force those young women who do become new mothers to struggle even harder to put food on the table and raise their children into healthy adults.”
With March 4 and the possibility of a government shutdown looming, both chambers of Congress passed a hastily crafted CR to authorize funding until March 18. The short-term CR includes $4 billion in cuts, which came mostly from the elimination of earmarks. Soon after, the Senate Democrats, in coordination with the White House, released their proposal, which met the Republicans halfway and included $50 billion in cuts, none of which directly impact access to sexual and reproductive health care access and prevention education; however, when, and if, the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House of Representatives will reach a compromise to provide funding until the end of Fiscal Year 2011 remains uncertain.

[1] Guttmacher Institute, “Title X-Supported Family Planning Services Nationally and in Each State,” Press Release published 16 February 2011, accessed 1 March 2011,

[2] Bread for the World, “House Vote Would Harm Hungry and Poor People,” Press Release, accessed 1 March 2011, <>.

[3] Cong. Rec. H1155, 112th Cong., 17 February 2011, accessed 1 March 2011, <>.

[4] Planned Parenthood Federation of America, The Promise of Change: Planned Parenthood Federation of America 2008–2009 Annual Report, accessed 1 March 2011, <>, 29.