In his Charter Day address to the student body, House Majority Whip Eric Cantor J.D. ’88 declared, “Our commonwealth, this region, is a place where our founding principles of liberty, democracy and limited government were cultivated.” Apparently, these founding principles do not extend to America’s women.
Under Cantor’s leadership, the House of Representatives has introduced a number of bills to severely limit women’s liberty, expand governmental power over women’s bodies and harm our democracy.
In 1970, Richard Nixon signed Title X, legislation to provide family planning services for Americans. Title X was passed three years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, a clear and obvious testament to the fact that Title X never intended to provide federally funded abortions. Under current U.S. law, no abortion is provided at federal expense.
This blatant fact, however, does not appease those in control of Congress’ 112th session. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) introduced H.R. 217, or the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, to Congress on Jan. 7. The controversial bill has 164 co-sponsors, including three democrats, Michele Bachmann ’89 and our Congressman Rob Wittman. The bill would prohibit providers who perform abortions from receiving family planning grants.
If passed, H.R. 217 will have disastrous effects on the health of American women. The bill will cut $327 million in funding to Planned Parenthood. In 2008, Planned Parenthood provided healthcare to 3 million patients. According to its annual report for that year, 36 percent of Planned Parenthood’s total services went to providing contraception, 31 percent involved testing and treatment for STIs, 17 percent provided cancer screening and prevention and only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services were used for abortions. H.R. 217 will disconnect 3 million women from preventative treatment and vital healthcare annually.
On January 20, Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), along with 121 cosponsors including 10 democrats, introduced H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act. As the law stands today, federal funds cannot be used for abortion services.
Plans that receive federal funds are required to keep those funds separate from funds used for abortion. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the Protect Life Act prohibits “federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services.” Even though federal assistance is not used to fund abortions, if H.R. 358 is passed, providers will be bribed into discontinuing abortion services.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) introduced H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. H.R. 3 similarly “prohibits federal funds from being used for any health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.” Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called H.R. 3 “one of our highest legislative priorities.” Abortion has been legal in the United States for 38 years, but Congress seems determined to revoke healthcare providers’ right to cover it at their own expense. Congress’ chief priority seems politicized and pointless in a time when Americans are faced with mounting debt, high unemployment and homelessness.
Rep. Cantor told us last Friday that America is “the world’s free-est [sic] and most prosperous nation.” Yet in terms of women’s health, our country is by no means the world’s leader. Amnesty International’s 2010 report, “Deadly Delivery; The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA,” outlines the danger of further sanctioning women’s health. The report declares the U.S. 41st in maternal health. Further limiting women’s access to vital health services such as family planning and cancer screening will improve neither women’s freedom nor American prosperity.
The sponsors of these bills claim to be both anti-deficit and pro-life, yet they have introduced no such measures regarding the defense budget. Of the world’s military expenditures in 2006, the United States accounted for 46 percent. According to the Center for Defense Information, defense related budget requests for 2011 total at around $1,048.9 billion dollars. An obvious way both to reduce spending and save lives would be to examine the defense budget; yet our leaders are focusing on limiting women’s access to pap smears. At our Charter Day assembly, Rep. Cantor proclaimed that “America is built on a culture of opportunity, responsibility and earned success.” American liberty and democracy are too important to be used merely as politicized talking points: We must extend these freedoms to our citizens before we can boast about them to the world.