Tuesday, 20 Nov 2007 10:44 AM
By Tom Squitieri
Indiana Rep. Mike Pence is gaining support for his plan to stem the annual flow of nearly $300 million in federal tax dollars given to groups that perform abortions.
Pence tells Newsmax he has close to 200 members of Congress ready to support his Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act. The bill, introduced last week, targets taxpayer money used to fund abortion clinics, especially Planned Parenthood.
“There is no reason why the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans should be used to underwrite abortion providers in this country,” the Indiana Republican says.
Planned Parenthood, the largest recipient of federal Title X Family Planning funds, performed more than 250,000 abortions in 2005 alone, Pence says. The organization gets nearly a third of its $1 billion annual budget from the federal government, he adds.
“It’s alarming to people,” Pence says.
Planned Parenthood’s response was almost immediate. “On Thursday, November 8, Rep. Mike Pence asked the U.S. House of Representatives to help him eliminate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding for preventive health services like birth control pills, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections,” the group said on its website. “This isn’t the first time we’ve dealt with Rep. Pence. We’ve beat him every time, and we can do it this time, but it requires us to be as strong and vigilant as ever.”
Pence made a similar effort last summer when he authored an amendment to an appropriations bill to nix Planned Parenthood funding. After 15 minutes of debate, the amendment failed 189-231.
But Pence points out that close vote indicates significant support for restricting federal family planning efforts, and several members on both sides of the aisle have since changed their minds on the matter.
The Title X program doled out $283 million for family-planning activities last year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2006, 88 Title X grantees provided services to five million people through a network of more than 4,400 community-based clinics that include state and local health departments, tribal organizations, hospitals, university health centers, independent clinics, community health centers, faith-based organizations, and other public and private nonprofit agencies. In approximately 75 percent of U.S. counties, there is at least one clinic that receives Title X funds, the records show.
Current law prohibits the use of Title X family planning funds “in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” Those regulations require some form of separation between federally-funded family planning services and abortions. However, the current regulations do not contain a descriptive standard of what constitutes “separation.” They only require the level of separation to be more than “mere bookkeeping”
Pence says many groups take advantage of those vague requirements.
“Money is fungible,” Pence complains. “They don’t use that money for abortions, but use it to cover other things to free up money to promote and provide abortions. Separation of accounting records and separation of facilities within the same building is not enough.”
Pence points out that his bill exempts hospitals and similar institutions and does not eliminate any federal family-planning funds.
“My bill is not about denying family planning funds,” Pence tells Newsmax. “There is a distinction with a difference among many of my constituents, many of whom will support a woman’s right to an abortion but not make [the taxpayer] pay for it.”
In seeking strict adherence to the law that keeps family-planning money from funding abortions, Pence says he thinks it is time that U.S. domestic policy regarding aligns with U.S. foreign policy on the same issue.
Under the so-called “Mexico City Policy,” the U.S. government precisely restricts funding for abortion providers overseas.
“I think we’ve got a large number of members that believe that we should have what amounts to a domestic Mexico City policy,” Pence says.
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