Getting family planning back on track

GETTING FAMILY PLANNING BACK ON TRACK…. It was unfortunate that family-planning aid to states was pulled from the economic stimulus package at Republicans’ behest. Fortunately, though, it may have been a temporary move. Elana Schor reports:

A source present at today’s White House signing ceremony for the Lilly Ledbetter bill tells me that President Obama gave assurances that the family planning aid would be done soon — perhaps as soon as next week, when the House is set to take up a spending bill that would keep the government funded until October.

Obama emphasized that the family-planning aid is “makes the budget look better, it’s a money saver,” the source said. In fact, removing the need for Medicaid waivers for family planning saves states an estimated $700 million over 10 years.

There was an impression in some circles that Obama’s willingness to scuttle the family-planning funds was evidence of a lack of commitment on the issue. For the president, however, it seems this was about when to advance funding on the issue, not whether. Obama wasn’t giving up on access to Medicaid-covered family planning services, he was just delaying it a little to help advance the stimulus plan.

On a related note, Time‘s Amy Sullivan (a Monthly alum) has a helpful item on this, taking a look at what the provision would have actually done if passed: “The provision would have allowed states to cover family planning services — but not abortion — that they already cover for low-income women who don’t otherwise qualify for Medicaid, just without first requiring states to obtain a waiver from the federal government. That’s it.”

Also, with the White House prepared to move on this soon, consider a good point E.J. Graff raised the other day about the new administration “showing incredible savvy in making controversial changes about women’s health.” In less than two weeks, this includes repealing the global gag rule and restoring investment in the United Nations Population Fund.

Noting the withdrawal of the family-planning provision from the stimulus legislation, Graff said on Tuesday, “I’m guessing that the Obamamites are being savvy — taking this fight out of the public eye so that they can handle it in a better way.” That appears to be exactly right.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.