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Catholics Decry Cuts to Vital Social Services; Praise Family Planning Decisions

April 14, 2011

Jon O’Brien, the president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement about the FY2011 spending bill that was passed by Congress today.

“There was both good and bad news in the budget deal that Congress passed today, but, as usual, women, especially lower-income women, took some big hits. Lower-income women in DC lost the most.

“We understand that given the economic situation, there are hard decisions to make. Nobody will be happy with all of them, and we too had mixed reactions to the deal that was struck late last week. But our Catholic commitment to social justice, including reproductive justice, means we have to speak out about some of the bad deals that were struck across the aisle to get the deal done.

“In good news, access to family planning was preserved when both the Title X program and Planned Parenthood survived conservative attacks. While Title X funding was cut, the program itself survived which was not a given in early negotiations. As Catholic voters and Catholic state legislators from both parties argued to Congress, it is a matter of social justice and economic good sense to provide assistance through Title X so American families can make their own decisions, in good conscience, about what’s best for themselves and their families. We are glad that this time Congress listened to Catholics instead of the Catholic bishops and their allies whose proposals would have meant greater economic hardship for many men, women and families in this country.

“On the bad side, the $504 million cut to the Women, Infants and Children fund was unconscionable. It will hurt the poorest of the poor who are already struggling to fend for their children. When President Obama said to Republican leader John Boehner, ‘I’ll give you DC abortions,’ he demonstrated complete disdain for poor women who already have no vote in Congress. The District of Colombia is now not allowed to use its own, local funds to pay for poor women’s abortions. This injustice goes even farther than the already misguided ban on federal funding for abortions—and it was made possible by the president.

“Despite promises to focus on the economy the Republican leadership in Congress is also working to make life for American women, especially poor women, more difficult. For the leadership, it has become a badge of honor to launch vicious attacks on Planned Parenthood and family planning. However, polls and scientific surveys show that women of all political hues and across the spectrum of religious beliefs use family planning and have abortions. Even though the Catholic bishops want to block access to contraception, more than 98% of Catholic women use it. And Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as other women in this country.

“Speaker Boehner may have disappointed the Catholic bishops by not getting Title X zeroed out, or Planned Parenthood defunded, but his spendthrift ways stopped when he found a way to appease at least one bishop. Even though they are locally unpopular, Boehner forced an unproven and unpopular education voucher scheme on DC that takes money away from public schools and moves it to private schools. The archdiocese is, of course, delighted.

“Women in the US won some and lost some in this deal. Unfortunately, poor women in DC lost and lost—with bipartisan support.