Appropriations Committee Sex TradingDigg This!
Political profiteering may well be older than Congress and sexual exploitation is certainly older. In Washington D.C., political exploitation of sexuality has been perfected over the past 30 years and last week it showed up in its second-most familiar form: appropriations negotiations. Elected officials appreciate the advantages of sexual moralizing and, on the other side of the same thin coin, elected officials understand human weakness and salacious sexuality. This obsession is a weak representation of human sexuality — especially when it comes to reproductive health and family planning — nonetheless it provides a throw-away bargaining chip for our representatives.
Last week, Congressional negotiators removed language from the Supplemental War Funding Bill that would have restored the ability of pharmaceutical companies to offer very low contraceptive prices to campus health centers and safety-net family planning clinics. We’ve been told that Congress inadvertently removed that authority when it passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Restoring the provision would cost taxpayers nothing and participation on the part of the pharmaceutical companies would be completely voluntary. Despite the no-cost no-mandate fix-a-mistake quality, access to reproductive health care for college students and low-income women was tossed off quickly.
Appropriations Chairman, David Obey said: “President Bush likely would have vetoed the package if it included the birth control pricing provision.”
Congress needs to stop using women’s health as a bargaining chip. Thirty years is long enough. Our reproductive health and reproductive rights must no longer be exploited or traded for partisan or ideological purposes because the consequences of sex trades like these in terms of risks to maternal and child health are far too high. It is time for our elected officials to stand for the principle that policy on reproductive health care must be evidence-based and medically sound.
Congress recently tossed a couple of chips in the form of a marginal Title X funding increase and flat-funding for abstinence-only programs to the reproductive rights and anti-choice organizations to keep them quiet, but “a bargaining chip is ultimately worthless if you’re not willing to bargain it away.” “Willing” is grossly understated for what happened last week. After this trade-off with opponents of contraception, Congressional negotiators can no longer claim that forcing college students to pay much higher costs for birth control is accidental.
Members of the Appropriations Committee are coming home in July for a Congressional Work Period. They will be making appearances and organizing for the next election. There is optimism and hope for change in Washington, but a new Congress and a new administration will replay the same old game if we don’t persuade them to take reproductive health and reproductive rights off the bargaining table.
At every appearance of every member of Congress and every candidate, we must demand that they no longer engage in political trade-offs of our sexual health and wellness.