A $1 trillion spending bill released by Republicans in the House of Representatives will renew several controversial funding measures, including funding for Planned Parenthood, and bans funding of some HIV prevention methods.
The GOP-sponsored bill may still meet some opposition from Democrats and Tea Party Republicans, but lawmakers from both parties believe the bill is a fair compromise.
Three contentious measures that will carryover from previous spending plans are a ban on federal funding for abortions conducted in Washington D.C., a ban on funding for needle exchange programs and continued funding for Planned Parenthood.
NO FUNDING FOR D.C. ABORTIONS
Using taxpayer money on abortion funding in the nation’s capital had been banned since 1996. The Obama Administration temporarily lifted the ban in 2009 when Democrats took over both parts of Congress.
The ban was reinstated last year -- it is voted on every year as it is an amendment to budgets, not federal law. In the time the ban was lifted, the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance reportedly paid for 117 elective abortions totaling about $62,000.
Since the ban’s reinstatement, Republican lawmakers have expressed concern that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray was not enforcing the ban.
“We do not anticipate that this situation will occur again, but in light of this history, we ask that you provide detailed information outlining what steps you are taking to ensure that no more public funds are used to pay for elective abortion in D.C.,” lawmakers said in a letter sent in April to Gray.
It is unknown if the new legislation offers any new provisions that will enforce the ban.
BAN ON NEEDLE EXCHANGE FUNDING
A ban on using federal funds toward needle exchange programs had existed since 1988, but was overturned in 2009 with the Democratic congress. A host of reputable health organizations have said that needle exchange programs help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 90 percent of new AIDS infections in women and 93 percent of new infections in children are cause by injecting drugs. About 75 percent of HIV/AIDS cases overall are caused by drug use.
Needle exchange establishments are places where drug users can go to get (usually) free hypodermic needles. But members of communities where these programs exist say used needles are often strewn about the ground and that the programs fail to address the problem appropriately.
Communities also are not keen on attracting drug users to their neighborhoods.
The CDC along with the American Medical Association and the Institute of Medicine have all come out in favor of needle sharing programs, but the government has long taken a stance against funding such projects.
Although the ban figures to be a part of the final bill, states reserve the ability to decide whether or not needle-sharing programs are allowed.
Planned Parenthood receives close to $400 million in revenue annually and about a third of that revenue comes from government funding, according to the group’s financial report.
The family planning and women’s care clinic has received federal funding since 1970. Although it performs myriad services from mammograms and pap smears to STD treatment and contraception, pro-life advocates have pointed to the group’s willingness to provide abortions for pregnant women as the organization’s main goal.
In an interview with pro-life group National Right to Live, Dr. Randall O’Bannon said Planned Parenthood’s numbers are misleading and that it is a factory for abortions – not an innocent health clinic for women’s care.
“One thing is clear from the data we have, data that comes from Planned Parenthood itself. In spite of the spin and the deflections, Planned Parenthood certainly is ‘Big Abortion’ – the nation’s biggest performer and most aggressive promoter of abortion.”
Planned Parenthood claims that only 3 percent of their services are abortion-related, while O’Bannon claims that of pregnant women who receive treatment from the clinic, over 97 percent get an abortion.
Planned Parenthood currently operates 83 affiliates throughout the 50 states and abroad.