International Family Planning
By adhering to an oppressive "global gag rule" first instituted during the Reagan Administration, the Bush Administration continues not only to censor free speech and stifle open debate on international family planning, but also each individual woman's right to personal, private medical care. This global gag rule, sometimes referred to as the Mexico City Policy, prevents any US funding for reproductive health services from going towards family planning organizations that provide abortions - even if they do so using other, non-U.S. funds.. The global gag rule forces overseas health-care providers to agree not to use their own, non-U.S. funds to provide or counsel patients about abortion, or to take a public pro-choice position.
An amendment to the Fiscal Year FY08 State-Foreign Operations appropriation bill attempted to modify part of the Mexico City policy. I voted in support of H Amdt 367 that allows non-governmental organizations to receive U.S. donated contraceptives-not funds-for distribution to millions of people in need of these products. The amendment passed 223 - 201 (Roll Call no. 533). The Senate version of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill repealed the policy entirely. However, when the Omnibus Appropriations bill passed in December, there were no changes made to the policy because of a veto threat from President Bush.
Please be assured that I will continue to vote to support international family planning.
The Freedom of Choice Act- HR 1964
I am proud to say that I am a cosponsor of this important legislation that would legally codify the reproductive rights recognized in Roe vs. Wade.
The recent Supreme Court decision upholding the so-called "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" is a thinly-veiled effort to chip away at Roe vs. Wade. The law that will now go into effect does not include a health exception. This crucial decision abandons Supreme Court precedence that has maintained that any law restricting abortion must have an exception for the health of the woman. The decision means that it is now illegal for a doctor to decide that this procedure is in the best interest of his patient. This fundamentally alters the precedence that has been in place since Roe vs. Wade.
This decision also shows the importance of elections. In 2000, Justice O'Connor was the deciding vote when the Supreme Court struck down an almost identical law. This time however, when the decision was announced, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, who were nominated by the Bush Administration, voted with the majority to uphold the ban. President Bush and his nominations to the Supreme Court have significantly changed the makeup of the Court. As this case shows, the Supreme Court is much more willing than it has been in the past to adhere to a political agenda set by a Republican White House than to already-decided case law.
I realize that the issue of abortion is a polarizing one for Americans, but this decision represents a setback for all Americans who value privacy.
This bill, HR 1964, the Freedom of Choice Act, was introduced in reaction to the Supreme Court decision. Currently HR 1964 has 74 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. This legislation faces an uphill battle in this Congress, but I will continue to push for its passage, and educate the public about the many threats currently eroding reproductive freedoms.
The Prevention First Act- H.R. 819
As you know, I am a co-sponsor of this important legislation that would expand access to preventive health care services to help reduce unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and improve access to women's health care. Specifically, the bill would provide funding for family planning services grants and contracts under the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). It would also prevent group health care plans from restricting benefits for contraceptives if the plan provides benefits for other prescription drugs. Furthermore, the Prevention First Act would also expand teenage pregnancy prevention programs and require that any information regarding contraception provided through federally funded education programs be medically accurate and include health benefits and failure rates.
HR 819 has been referred to three different committees that have jurisdiction over this issue. Identical legislation (S. 21) has been introduced in the Senate. The proactive steps in this bill are in line with both parties' efforts to reduce abortion. Given that the Democrats now have the majority in Congress, I am hopeful that this bill will be given serious consideration. In the mean time, I will continue to support bills promoting informed decisions in reproductive health.