The Bush Administration continues to promote an "abstinence only" approach to reproductive and sexual health, significantly scaling back efforts to promote family planning and contraceptive use. Bush has taken several measures to restrict family planning services, both at home and abroad, since his inauguration. Most recently, an ordained Catholic deacon working with the Department of Health and Human Services questioned family planning programs that are designed by the Centers for Disease Control and aimed to help parents discuss sexual health with their children. He believes such programs run counter to the Catholic beliefs of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson.
In the wake of significant reductions in teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, public health experts now question whether this approach stems from ideology or science. Marcia Swearingen, assistant director of the Why Know abstinence program, celebrated the programís $254,000 federal grant stating "I know itís not scientific, but weíre encouraged." Meanwhile, according to a 1997 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, "there does not currently exist any scientifically credible, published research" that show abstinence-only programs delay or reduce sexual activity. In the same year, a panel on HIV convened by the National Institutes of Health claimed "abstinence only programs cannot be justified in the face of effective programs and given the fact that we face an international emergency in the AIDS epidemic."
For the current fiscal year, Congress approved a $20 million increase in funding for abstinence-only programs, a figure that is expected to increase to $30 million next year. Administration officials report that their goal is to spend $135 million on such programs, which would match the stagnant amount of funding allocated for family planning.
Media Resources: The Washington Post www.washingtonpost.com - July 30, 2001; NARAL www.naral.org
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .