President to Seek Major Increases in Funds For Family Planning
Although the administration's annual budget request is not formally transmitted to Congress until early February (the official release date of the FY 2000 budget is February 7), over the last few years the Clinton administration has announced its intentions concerning selected programs it considers to be of particularly high priority. This year, that was the case with family planning. Pres-ident Bill Clinton devoted his January 8 weekly radio address to this topic, using the opportunity to announce that he will propose large funding increases for both domestic and international family planning programs.
"We all agree," the president said, "that we want to save lives, help women and children stay healthy and empower families to take responsibility for their own choices. Supporting reproductive health and family planning is one of the very best ways to do that. We know it works. At home and abroad, we don't have a woman's life—or a child's healthy start—to waste."
Accordingly, the president said he will ask Congress to increase funding for Title X, the central domestic family planning program, by $35 million over the current level to $274 million in FY 2001. The president said this increase—the largest dollar increase in the program in two decades—would be used to help continue the downward trend in teenage pregnancy rates and to improve access to contraceptive services for adult women, including hard-to-reach populations. Moreover, increased funding, according to the president, would enhance the ability of family planning clinics across the country to provide more comprehensive services, such as routine gynecologic care and screening for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer, as well as HIV/AIDS prevention, education and screening services.
The president also noted his support for the requirement, first enacted in FY 1999, that health plans for federal government employees cover the broad range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods. He stated his intention to continue that requirement for the benefit of the 1.2 million women of reproductive age currently enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, adding that he hoped this requirement would set a standard for private insurers as well.
Finally, the president declared that the United States is committed to good reproductive health for women in the developing world as well as for American women "because it's right, and because it will help build the kind of world we want for our own children." He said he would ask Congress to increase funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development's population program by $169 million to $542 million. Moreover, he emphasized that he would ask Congress to do so without reapplying the restrictions in effect for this year that "hamper the work of family planning organizations and even bar them from discussing or debating reproductive health policies" (see related story). The administration's FY 2001 request for the United Nations Population Fund has not yet been announced.