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Contraceptives dropped, but STD ed. still part of stimulus

WASHINGTON (BP)–In a victory for conservatives, House Democrats have removed more than $200 million that was targeted for “family planning” and contraceptives in the proposed economic stimulus bill, but those same conservatives say the bill still has pork, including $335 million for STD prevention education.

President Obama called Rep. Henry Waxman, D.-Calif., on Monday and asked him to drop the contraceptives provision from the $825 billion package, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. Waxman had inserted the provision, which would have resulted in a significant expansion of federal matching funds for state Medicaid “family planning” services, which encompasses contraceptives. Although Obama supports increased funding for “family planning,” Gibbs said, he doesn’t view the stimulus package as the proper vehicle.

Republican Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and other GOP members had criticized the contraceptives provision from the get-go. Criticism grew when Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the provision, arguing that “the contraception [initiative] will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”

Now, Boehner and other House Republicans are targeting other parts of the bill, including $335 million set aside for educating teens about sexually transmitted diseases and $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

“More than $2.3 billion will be transferred to the Centers for Disease Control to carry-out preventive services, including an additional $335 million for domestic HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually-transmitted disease and tuberculosis prevention programs,” a statement from House Republicans said, according to a blog on National Review’s website. “Disease prevention is important, however it is uncertain how it will help to stimulate the economy.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which leans right, also criticized the package.

“This is supposed to be a new era of bipartisanship, but this bill was written based on the wish list of every living — or dead — Democratic interest group,” the editorial read. “As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, ‘We won the election. We wrote the bill.’ So they did. Republicans should let them take all of the credit.”

The package is expected to be voted on in the House Wednesday.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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