Removal of family planning provision roils groups

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two Jewish organizations have expressed disappointment that a provision to make family planning services more accessible under Medicaid was removed from economic stimulus legislation.

The National Council of Jewish Women and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism opposed the elimination of language in the bill that would have allowed states to expand Medicaid family planning coverage without first obtaining a waiver from the federal government. The provision was reportedly removed at the request of the Obama administration. The overall economic recovery package passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening by a 244-188 vote.

In a letter Wednesday to JTA, National Council of Jewish Women President Nancy Ratzan said it was "deeply disappointing that President Obama, who has a strong voting record of support for family planning, yielded to anti-birth control forces."

"The president missed an important opportunity to educate Congress and the public on the connection of this issue to women’s economic well-being," she said.

The Religious Action Center did not criticize the president, but sent an action alert to its members on Wednesday morning, before the House vote, urging them to contact their members of Congress and tell them to keep the provision in the bill. The group said dropping the waiver requirement would make "basic health care services, including cancer screenings and preventive care, more accessible and affordable to the millions of women and families who depend on them."

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