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    Posted on Dec 19, 2014

    Five Details Tucked Away In The CRomnibus That Affect Abortion, Birth Control And Sex Ed

    Turns out Congress put a lot of stuff in the CRomnibus that affects women's health. Some of it is good, but some is very bad.

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    First — and we’re not proud here at blog central to have to admit this — but we weren’t exactly sure what a CRomnibus was when we first heard about it. We’re sure you didn’t have this problem. You probably sit around with your friends drinking fancy, imported teas discussing current events like the government spending bill, which is, as it turns out, what a CRomnibus is — and not, as we originally thought, something like a cruller, only more crumbly and delivered by omnipotent bus drivers. (Once our imagination started down this path, we thought maybe the CRomnibus was a new kind of cronut, but who has time to stand in line for two hours?)

    This snooze-inducing portmanteau is actually a combination of a continuing resolution (CR) and an omnibus appropriations bill. Don’t worry, we’ll yadda yadda over the boring parts: Members of Congress... yada yada yada... then passed the CRomnibus, and managed to keep the federal government open. It’s a holiday miracle! Cronuts for everyone!

    But here's the interesting part: Congress put a lot of stuff in the CRomnibus on women's health. Some of it is good, some bad. To help you see for yourself, we're separating the good from the bad in the CRomnibus.

    Extending Equitable Abortion Coverage to Peace Corps Volunteers

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    Peace Corps volunteers put their safety on the line to help people around the world. NBD. Given that more than 60 percent of volunteers are women, you'd think Congress would give them at least the same reproductive health coverage as it gives our military and other federal workers, but no. You see, other women who receive their health coverage through the federal government have had an exception to the abortion funding ban in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the woman. But Peace Corps volunteers haven’t had the same protection in their health care coverage. That means Peace Corps volunteers who got pregnant as a result of rape while serving their country or who needed an abortion to save their own lives had no abortion coverage — until now.

    Finally, Congress is doing something right! ! Even though there is more work to be done to remove the ban on federal funding for abortion altogether, we're glad the CRomnibus gives volunteers the same abortion coverage that they would have if they were in any other type of federal government service. That’s good in our book.

    Not Cutting Funds for Family Planning & Comprehensive Sex Ed

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    We know that family planning and sex education is woefully underfunded and needs more support, but we’re going to take what we can get that this Congress passed a CRomnibus without cuts to important federal grant programs that provide contraception, sex ed, and other reproductive health services (like the Title X Family Planning Program; the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program; the CDC's Division of Adolescent & School Health; USAID’s international reproductive health program; and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund).

    To give you an idea of how much good these programs do, Title X-funded family planning centers help low-income women avert 1.1 million unintended pregnancies per year by providing birth control and contraception education. It wasn’t too long ago that Congress wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, so while not getting an important program cut might seem like scraping the bottom of the barrel for good news… Yeah, actually, it is. But still, it’s not bad news. Could be worse.

    Continuing Harmful Restrictions on Federal Funding for Abortion

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    As we mentioned earlier, the government has several long-standing harmful restrictions on federal funds for abortion, including the Hyde Amendment. That means health centers that provide abortion can get government grants for other health services (like those family planning programs that maintained their funding — woo hoo!), but not for providing abortion. The funding restriction also means that women who have federal health insurance can’t use it to cover an abortion, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the woman (which just got extended to Peace Corps volunteers — double woo hoo!). Because this restriction bans federal funding for most abortion services, you are in serious trouble if you need an abortion and you're one the 12 million low-income women on Medicaid — or any of the four million who rely on other federal insurance programs.

    Congress could have changed that with the CRomnibus, but instead it continues to single out this legal, constitutionally protected, and safe health care procedure that should be part of comprehensive reproductive health care. So. Not. Good.

    Allowing Insurance Companies Not to Cover Abortion, & Allowing Health Care Providers Not to Provide Abortion

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    This time of year, we try to see the good in each other. But we have a hard time when doctors, hospitals, and even private insurance companies can use personal “objections” to refuse to cover or provide abortion.

    We can’t believe we have to keep saying this: Abortion is a safe and legal medical procedure. It should be treated like any other medical procedure under the law, but Congress once again subjected a woman’s health care to the whims of insurance companies and hospitals in something called the Weldon Amendment. It’s been the same way for a decade, but that doesn’t make it right. It makes it a thumbs down.

    Funding for Ineffective Abstinence-Only Until Marriage Sex Ed

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    As we said, it could be worse. Aaand here’s where it gets worse: Instead of increasing funding for sex ed programs that are based on things like facts and evidence, and that actually have measurable results for reducing unintended pregnancy and STI rates, Congress is irresponsibly giving millions of dollars to states for ineffective abstinence-only education. Unsurprisingly, these same states that teach abstinence-only sex ed are also where teenagers are more likely to have unintended pregnancies. Moreover, this type of message often excludes and can shame LGBT youth — the exact opposite of what they need.

    Comprehensive sex ed works — and a huge majority of both parents and teens want it in schools. Abstinence-only “education” does not work. Isn’t there a saying about throwing good money after bad policy?

    BOTTOM LINE: It’s Something We Can Build On

    Maybe the best thing we can say about Congress is that they left town in time for us to celebrate the holidays with our friends, our family who we love, and those other relatives. But as you start your last-minute holiday shopping, know that we're gearing up for a fight: Not over the last tickle-me-and-more-stuff Elmo (or whatever the kids want these days), but for reproductive rights in 2015.

    You can bet that Planned Parenthood Action Fund and its millions of supporters are ready to hold politicians accountable for any attacks on women's health when they come back to Washington in the New Year. Join Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in the fight for women's health and rights.

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