House Dems Axe Birth Control Funds From Stimulus Bill

Published January 27, 2009

| FoxNews.com

WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders in the House have dropped federal funding for new contraceptive services and ongoing programs to stop sexually transmitted diseases from the $825 billion economic stimulus bill due to hit the floor Tuesday.

The decision came after President Obama called Democratic leaders to tell them that the $200 million set-aside does not comport with the objectives of the job creation package. 

Obama is holding high-profile meetings with House and Senate Republicans to build bipartisan support for his massive economic stimulus bill. The bill contains $87 billion in emergency Medicaid funding to help states crushed by deficits. 

More than 40 states find themselves facing huge deficits brought on by the deteriorating economy and subsequent loss of tax revenue and rise in social service spending.

As originally written, the House Democratic bill included more than $300 million in funds to slow the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It also included a provision -- the one that's drawn the most GOP fire -- that provides a 9-to-1 match of federal funds to state funds to provide contraceptives to poor women who qualified under Medicaid. It also would have provided the same contraceptives to women whose income was 200 percent of the federal poverty level, a significant increase in funding.

Told about the removal of the provision, House Minority Leader John Boehner called it a start.

"That's clearly a step in the right direction but it's not enough," he said.

The contraceptive funding is an effort to expand federal efforts to prevent unwanted births. Currently, Medicaid provides family planning services after women become pregnant. It focuses all federal funds on contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies, not other family planning services Medicaid provides.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially defended the policy initiative on Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those -- one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

A 2007 study by the Congressional Budget Office found sizable federal savings if states were free to give contraceptives to poor women. The report found that post-pregnancy family planning did nothing to reduce the cost of Medicaid-funded births. But preventing pregnancies by providing contraceptives, the study found, would save the federal government an estimated $200 million over five years.

FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.

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