Thursday, March 5, 2009

ABC Not So Easy, Thanks to DeMint

By now, everyone knows that we’re mired in a pretty bad recession; some politicians, writers and journalists have even started labeling it the next Great Depression. The last thing we need is a floundering government legally unable to function – right?

Apparently, some far-right politicians disagree. In a move motivated purely by ideology, twisted data and a yen for political clout, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and others are raising objections to the FY 2009 Omnibus spending bill – based on its “earmark” for the Affordable Birth Control Act, or ABC, which would allow pharmaceutical companies to offer inexpensively priced drugs to college health centers and family planning clinics. This had been done without complaint until 2007, when a change in the law accidentally influenced access to birth control at these centers.

While opponents characterize this sensible provision as an earmark, the reality is that it is a no-cost provision. No federal funds are attached to the ABC – it’s a semantic correction to an earlier piece of legislation. All it does is fix a typo of sorts, making access to birth control much easier for women in need. And the anti-choice politicians opposing this legislation would do well to bear in mind that adequate and reliable birth control = fewer unintended pregnancies = fewer abortions. If Sen. DeMint and his allies were serious about lowering the abortion rate, they would support this provision. In actuality, they are against family planning, an extreme position out of step with most Americans.

Women need the ABC and they need it now. Across the country and here in Maryland, birth control prices on college campuses and safety-net clinics are skyrocketing. Until 2007, women were able to purchase birth control at the average price of $10 a month. Now birth control prices have shot up as high as $55 a month on some Maryland campuses, making it difficult for countless women to afford.

And the FY 2009 Omnibus bill is on a deadline. If it is not passed by Friday, March 6 – at the writing of this post, that’s tomorrow – the government will have to operate on a “continuing resolution,” drastically reducing its capacity to operate. And during a monetary crisis like this one, we need a government that can work for us, not one fatally crippled by the misguided rhetoric of misguided politicians.

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