ACLU Hails Amendment to Increase Funding to Prevent Unplanned Pregnancies; Measure Would Promote Healthy Pregnancies and Healthy Children

March 16, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today hailed the introduction of a budget amendment in the Senate that would increase funding for public health programs aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies and offer additional support for pregnant women and children.

“This amendment is a commonsense step in the right direction,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Politicians of all stripes should rally behind this effort to promote health families and healthy pregnancies.”

The budget amendment introduced by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) yesterday would provide an additional $347 million in public health funding to support programs that require coverage for prescription contraceptives in otherwise comprehensive drug benefit plans; promote awareness of emergency contraception; fund medically accurate programs to reduce teen pregnancy; and increase family planning services for low-income women. The amendment also provides additional funding for programs that support pregnant women and children.

Nearly three million of the six million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended, giving the U.S. one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancy in the industrialized world. Many of the programs that would receive additional funding through this amendment work toward the goal of preventing unplanned pregnancies.

The ACLU noted that federal funding for family planning services has not kept up with inflation. The FDA has ignored the advice of medical experts and major medical groups calling for the sale of the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, to women 16 and over without a prescription. Emergency contraception, often referred to as “the morning-after pill,” reduces the risk of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent if the first dose is taken within 72 hours days of unprotected intercourse, but loses effectiveness with the passage of time.

Likewise, the Department of Justice released protocols in late 2004 for the treatment of sexual assault victims that failed to include information about pregnancy prevention and emergency contraception. Since 1997, the federal government has spent nearly a billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that do not provide information about contraception, despite research that indicates many such programs do not delay teens having sex. Some studies show that these programs actually deter teens from protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy or disease when they start having sex. The Reid-Clinton amendment is an antidote to repeated failures by the government to encourage prevention, said the ACLU.

“In recent weeks the battle over reproductive rights has been at a fever pitch, but anti-choice members of Congress have yet to list prevention as a top priority,” Fredrickson said. “Instead, foes of reproductive rights have not supported bills to increase access to contraceptives. Instead, they continue to pour money into abstinence-only programs that discourage people from using contraceptives. This modest amendment would help prevent many unwanted pregnancies, and the Senate should adopt it.”

To read the ACLU’s letter on the Reid-Clinton Amendment, go to:

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