Family Planning Population Reproductive Health Women's Issues

Watch this Legislation

Watch this Legislation—2-2011

© Richard Grossman MD, 2011

What is this country coming to? Even if you are not concerned about population issues, you should be concerned about various legislative actions that are gestating now. These bills, if they become law, will be serious steps backwards for the rights of half of our voting population—women.

If they were to become law, the infrastructure of health care for women (and for some men) would be destroyed. Many children will suffer, too.

The efforts at a federal level to restrict access to reproductive health care are in the “spending bill”, H.R. 1. During this economic downturn it makes sense to cut funding, but women and children seem to be getting the short stick.

The federal WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) provides healthy food to pregnant women, their babies and children up to five years of age. Over six million children receive food through this program, as well as more than two million pregnant and breastfeeding women.

One of the strong points of WIC is that the program encourages women to breastfeed. Remember that nursing is healthier for the baby and for the mom, and that nursing also is an effective means of child spacing.

The proposed budget would cut more than a tenth of WIC funding. What will happen to those unfortunate mothers and their children if the WIC program is not available to them?

Another federal program, Title X (ten), provides family planning services to millions of women. It has become even more important since the economic downturn; the number of Americans without health insurance has risen to over 50 million! This program also pays for services such as cancer detection and the diagnosis and treatment of reproductive tract infections. From a purely financial standpoint it is well known that contraception pays for itself in the long run. Every dollar invested in family planning saves more than four dollars in obstetrical and pediatric services. Title X is one of the best programs to save the taxpayers’ money!

Nevertheless, some legislators are trying to take away all funding from Title X in H.R.1 and rwith H.R. 217. Apparently this is to remove support from Planned Parenthood, which administers much of the funding. Although Planned Parenthood does provide abortion care for many women, it carefully observes the laws that prevent using federal funds for abortions.

Furthermore, family planning services have been shown over and over to decrease the demand for abortion. If Title X is canceled there will be an increase in unplanned pregnancies and requests for abortion—just the opposite of what the antiabortion legislators (and you and I) want!

Earlier this month the House of Representatives passed the Pence amendment to H.R. 1 (the spending bill) aimed directly at Planned Parenthood. In addition to taking away Title X moneys, it will prevent any federal money from going to this organization. Fortunately, the Senate (with its Democratic majority) will probably prevent this bill from becoming law.

As a doctor who performs abortions, I take special note of South Dakota HB 1171. It is titled “An Act to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to provide for the protection of certain unborn children”. Just what the bill means, and how it will be interpreted if it becomes law, are uncertain. Perhaps the bill might as well be called the “The abortion doctor assassination authorization act”. Remember that the US Supreme Court declared abortion legal in 1973. Since that date the number of women suffering and dying from abortions has plummeted.

If this bill were to become law it is likely that the few doctors who do perform abortions in South Dakota will stop doing so. Where safe medical abortion services are not available, nonmedical people are ready to take over. Poorly trained people, without proper instruments or sterile technique, worked in the back alleys before 1973. Once again we will see victims of illegal abortionists in our hospitals and morgues.

There is other miserable legislation afoot, but these—H.R.1, the Pence Amendment and South Dakota HB 1171—are among the worst. Keep an eye on them, and let your legislators know that you still respect women and women’s right to have safe and legal abortions. A good source of information about bills before Congress is, which not only provides information but also makes it easy to email legislators.

Call our federal legislators and let them know what you think about these bills: Representative Scott Tipton—202.225-4761 Senator Mark Udall—970.247-1047 Senator Michael Bennet—970.259-1710

By Richard

I am a retired obstetrician-gynecologist who has been fortunate to live and work in the wonderful community of Durango, Colorado for 40 years.

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