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December 14, 2009

NARAL Pro-Choice America Marks Progress in Omnibus Spending Bill

Legislation includes repeal of onerous anti-choice policy in Washington, D.C., elimination of funding for discredited Bush-era 'abstinence-only' programs

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, commended pro-choice leaders in the House and Senate for securing advances for women's health and privacy and sound science in the omnibus spending measure that is heading to President Obama's desk.

Most notably, Keenan praised Congress for lifting an onerous anti-choice policy that blocked Washington D.C.'s elected leaders from using locally raised funds to pay for abortion services for low-income women. President Obama recommended lifting the ban in his budget request to Congress and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's elected representative in Congress, fully supports repealing the ban.

"Contrary to anti-choice fabrications, ending this ban simply gives the elected city leaders the ability to decide whether the District will use its own locally raised funds to ensure women have access to the full range of reproductive-health options, including safe, legal abortion," Keenan said. "Congress doesn't tell any other state or local jurisdiction how to use its locally raised funds, so it's past time to end this unfair and discriminatory policy."

In addition to the progress for women in the nation's capital, Keenan said the bill eliminates funding for two failed "abstinence-only" programs and invests in evidence-based teen-pregnancy prevention programs.

"I commend pro-choice leaders for putting sound science and teens' health before political ideology," Keenan said. "This investment of funding signifies an important step toward ensuring teens receive the accurate information necessary to prevent unintended pregnancy and avoid sexually transmitted disease."

In addition to these advances, Keenan outlined specifics on how the bill improves women's access to health services:

  • Increases funding for Title X, the nation's cornerstone program for low-income women, by $17 million, moving the total to $317 million. The basic care includes contraceptive services that help prevent unintended pregnancy and thus reduce the need for abortion.
  • Includes increases of $98 million for international family-planning programs and $5 million for the United Nations Population Fund, both critically needed programs that had been underfunded or cut altogether by former President George W. Bush.

Keenan said it was disappointing that the omnibus spending measure maintains some anti-choice policies, most notably the Hyde amendment, a discriminatory ban on funding for abortion care that denies low-income women access to the full range of reproductive-health options, including safe, legal abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America will continue to educate lawmakers about the adverse effect these policies have on women and work for their eventual repeal in the future.

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