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2011 Congressional Record on Choice

Click on your state to find out how your lawmakers voted on choice-related issues.


Introduction

The 2010 elections had a profound impact on America's political landscape. The U.S. House of Representatives changed hands and anti-choice leadership took control of the chamber. Politicians who campaigned on an agenda of addressing the nation's pressing challenges—jobs and the economy—took office and promptly ignored their promises. They turned instead to social-policy attacks and launched a War on Women.

NARAL Pro-Choice America's 2011 Congressional Record on Choice documents the key House and Senate votes taken during the first session of the 112th Congress. The highly polarized 112th Congress has only 154 fully pro-choice House members out of 435, and 40 of 100 senators.

In 2011, anti-choice lawmakers attacked reproductive rights on the following fronts:

  • Family Planning: Anti-choice lawmakers tried several times to eliminate the Title X family-planning program and to defund Planned Parenthood. For many women, Title X clinics provide the only basic health care that they receive; in some communities, Planned Parenthood is their only available health-care provider. While all three measures that the House considered passed, thankfully the Senate defeated them.

  • D.C. Abortion Ban: While family-planning funding ultimately was spared during FY'11 budget negotiations, it came at a terrible price. Anti-choice politicians forced the inclusion of the D.C. abortion ban in the final budget deal. This unfair ban usurps the District's right to self-governance, undermines the city's home rule, and makes a mockery of the democratic process in the nation's capital.

  • Abortion-Training Restrictions: Anti-choice Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) led the House to vote for an unprecedented restriction on the use of federal funds for abortion training at teaching health centers. The measure would curtail doctors' ability to receive comprehensive and necessary instruction in reproductive-health care, allowing federally funded abortion training only in circumstances of life endangerment, rape, or incest. Prudently, the Senate never took up the proposal.

  • Attacks on Medical Abortion: Anti-choice lawmakers continued their campaign against the safe and effective early-abortion pill—known as mifepristone, or RU 486. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) offered a surprise-attack amendment to the FY'12 Agriculture appropriations bill that would have forbidden use of the nation's small but growing telemedicine system for delivery or discussion of the medication. Unfortunately, the House passed the proposal. A few months later, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) filed a similar amendment in the Senate, but it never came up for a vote.

  • "Stupak on Steroids" Agenda: The House of Representatives passed two bills that continue recent years' attacks on insurance coverage of abortion. H.R.3, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), effectively bans abortion coverage in state health-insurance exchanges, penalizes small businesses and many individuals who purchase health plans that include abortion coverage, and permanently codifies all current-law abortion bans. H.R.358, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), also effectively bans abortion coverage in state health-insurance exchanges, and goes even further: it would allow hospitals to refuse to provide emergency abortion care even to women who will die without it. Thankfully, President Obama issued statements threatening to veto both bills and the Senate wisely decided to take up neither piece of legislation.

Despite their numerical minority in Congress, pro-choice allies countered the anti-choice attacks. In 2011, two victories stood out among the year's barrage of anti-choice activity:

  • Birth-Control Coverage: As the Obama administration worked to implement the Affordable Care Act, it adopted a recommendation by an expert Institute of Medicine panel to require all newly issued health plans to include family-planning care as a required benefit at no additional cost. This historic decision marks the greatest improvement to women's access to reproductive-health services in a generation and makes the health-care law's promise of near-universal contraceptive coverage a reality.

  • Family-Planning Services Overseas: For the second year in a row, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a significant pro-choice amendment, authored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), that would block permanently a future global gag rule. The committee's action demonstrates its ongoing commitment to smart international family-planning policy, and distinguishes the panel from anti-choice House appropriators who twice proposed reinstating the global gag rule. Unfortunately, the amendment was not included in the final appropriations bill.

In 2012, as we gear up for a critical presidential contest, the 112th Congress serves as a cautionary tale that illustrates the vital importance of elections in protecting our cherished rights. As we continue to fight back against the War on Women, we will persevere with fortitude and hope. We are guided always by our longtime commitment to women's safety and health, autonomy, and dignity, and to our belief in a world in which every child is welcome, wanted, and loved.

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