By Nancy Northup, President, Center for Reproductive Rights
Too often in Washington, women’s health is used as the bargaining chip in political skirmishes and too often, low-income women pay the price.
While last week, the White House and Congressional leaders managed to head off a government shutdown and reject House proposals to strip funding from family planning services, including Planned Parenthood and Title X, lawmakers regrettably also agreed to include in their deal a policy rider that forbids the District of Columbia from using its own money to fund abortion services. Millions of women across the country rely on Planned Parenthood and Title X health centers for their basic medical needs, including contraception, screenings for high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes, and pelvic exams. It is of the utmost importance that those services remain available. By the same token, the budget resolution is a blow to women in the District of Columbia and their city government’s right to decide what is best for them. The budget agreement strips tens of thousands of women in D.C. of access to the full range of reproductive health services that they need. Every state has the authority to spend its own local tax dollars to serve its constituents — including paying for women’s abortion services. But now that power has been taken from the District. Last year, D.C. residents voted to fund low-income women’s medically necessary abortions. Steamrolling over the city’s decision is both bad policy and undemocratic. Certainly, this isn’t the first time that anti-choice lawmakers have held critical government decisions hostage as they move to dismantle women’s abortion rights. We saw this very playbook during the healthcare debate. We expect that these latest maneuvers were only a warm-up act for the future. We will continue to fight for the right of all women, regardless of income, to have access to the full range of reproductive health services that they need.