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Ian Welsh Headshot

What Obama's Nixing Family Planning Money Tells Us

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President Barack Obama asked Comittee Chairman Henry Waxman to remove family planning money from the stimulus bill after Republicans objected. This is on the heels of nixing bankruptcy reform because, well, Republicans objected.

Money for family planning is good stimulus as there is unfulfilled demand due to chronic underfunding. People can be hired immediately and there is demand for the service. It fits in a stimulus bill very well because it provides immediate spending. In fact it fits better than many of the other things in the bill, such as tax cuts for corporations which we know from experience will create few if any jobs.

So it's better as a stimulus than other expenditures in the bill. The only justification for not putting it in would be if it's "politically necessary". Will the bill not pass if it isn't in? What Republicans in the House think is irrelevant, their votes aren't needed. In the Senate Obama presumably needs 3 or 4 Republicans to pass the stimulus. Therefor the question is if stripping family planning is the difference between getting those 3 or 4 votes or not. It seems unlikely to me that Republican Senators likely to sign on would withhold their vote because of family planning money, as those most likely to vote on any Democratic bill won't come from the hard theocon wing of the party.

So, odds are Obama didn't need to strip out the money in order to get the bill passed. However, it has been indicated that Obama wants to do more than barely pass the bill, he wants to pass it with substantial Republican support.

Which means, in effect, that having "bipartisan" support is more important to Obama than funding family planning. The practical result will be more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions which should never have happened. And in many areas of the country, many women forced to carry to term babies they never wanted. Bipartisanship, to Obama, is more important than that result.

Now, if it's only this bill that Obama feels the need to pass with bipartisan agreement, if this is a one time thing, well I guess the bill might be passed later. But if he intends to keep wanting more Republicans to pass his bills, well, one wonders when it can pass? Even worse, lets face it, a lot of Democrats (Harry Reid, the majority leader, for example) are "pro-life" themselves. To pass such an increase pretty much requires putting it in another, more popular, bill.

Democrats are giddy at being back in power. But I will suggest that being in power is all about priorities. One should watch carefully to see what the priorities of the new administration are.

Today we have learned something about the administration's priorities. And appeasing Republicans ranks appears to be a higher priority than family planning.

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