The eleventh-hour passage of a House appropriations bill Thursday has left a mixed bag for women's health -- but it could have been worse.
Though the conversation was dominated by Democratic opposition to provisions loosening campaign finance and financial services regulations, access to abortion and contraception was also on the table. No one got everything they wanted, but with Republicans taking full control of Congress next year and the new bill funding the government through October, this was probably the best deal women's health advocates could get.
Peace Corps volunteers who seek abortions after being raped will now have coverage for the procedure, thanks to a measure that passed in the bill after previously being scuttled. It represents a rare, if small, gain in access to reproductive health services at the federal level.
The Hyde Amendment still bars any federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. Since 1979, Peace Corps volunteers have been barred from getting the same limited abortion coverage as other federal employees, as well as people on Medicaid, residents of the District of Columbia and military service members.
A statement from Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards noted that family planning funds like Title X and the International Family Planning and Reproductive Health Program were left intact, after being targeted by Republicans in the past. On the other hand, funding for abstinence-only education increased slightly. In the end, Richards said, it was "an important step in the right direction when it comes to women's health -- holding the line on deeply unpopular abortion restrictions and expanding access for Peace Corps volunteers."
The District of Columbia is still barred from using its own tax funds for abortion, as it has been since 2011. States are allowed to use their own tax funds to cover abortion.
There was some dissatisfaction among social conservatives, though they were pleased to get the additional abstinence-only education funding. "Republicans in Congress appear to be [taking] pro-life lawmakers, constituents, and voters for granted," Dan Holler, communications director of Heritage Action for America, told the anti-abortion LifeSite News.