TITLE X: Controversial Contraceptive Provision Passes
During heated debate on the Labor Health and Human Services appropriations bill, the House yesterday agreed to Rep. Ernest Istook's (R-OK) amendment requiring federally funded family planning clinics to notify parents prior to dispensing contraceptives to minors. Lawmakers rejected the compromise offered by Rep. James Greenwood (R-PA) that instead would have required Title X clinics to counsel minors on abstinence and on how to avoid being coerced into sexual activity (NARAL release, 10/9). Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) asserted on the House floor that states already have their own programs and that the federal government does not need to be involved (C-SPAN, 10/8). That sentiment was echoed by National Abortion Rights Action League President Kate Michelman, who said, "Imposing a federal parental involvement requirement would effectively nullify laws in 23 states that explicitly allow teens to obtain family planning services without parental consent." Michelman said the House's action would only discourage minors from seeking contraceptive services. "Requiring parental consent for contraception will not reduce teen sexual activity. It will only deter teens from seeking sensitive health care services," she said, adding that "[l]imiting access to family planning will only serve to increase" unintended pregnancies (NARAL release, 10/9). CongressDaily/AM reports that legislators brought the House version of the Labor-HHS bill to the floor -- "even though" House and Senate conferees "are now dealing the with the measure" -- in order to fulfill an earlier promise. "It's a commitment that we would do this," a House Republican leadership aide said, adding, "We're sticking to that commitment" (Baumann/Caruso/Koffler, CongressDaily/AM, 10/9).
No Quick Exits
Several reproductive health issues remain unresolved as legislators attempt to roll leftover appropriations matters into an omnibus bill in order to get out of town quickly. The AP/Baltimore Sun reports that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), cosponsor of the Senate's contraceptive coverage provision, has vowed to filibuster the "$27 billion, House-passed measure financing the Treasury Department and other agencies because Republicans had stripped a provision requiring most federal workers' medical plans to cover prescription contraceptives." Additionally, Republicans may attempt to insert legislative language in the omnibus appropriations bill banning U.S. aid "to groups that lobby for liberalized abortions laws overseas" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/9). However, the Washington Post reports that "negotiations seem to be going largely the president's way" as lawmakers scramble to leave town to campaign for re-election (Hager/Dewar, 10/9),