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Harvard Professors, Students React to Congress' Cuts to Planned Parenthood Funding

By Melanie A. Guzman, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard professors and students have expressed a variety of opinions about a controversial measure to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives last Saturday.

The bill, known as “Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1),” has now been sent to the still Democratic-majority Senate for a vote.

The measure initially proposed cutting Title X of the Public Health Service Act, the family planning program enacted in 1970 by President Richard M. Nixon.

An amendment proposed by Representative Michael R. Pence, R-Ind., also passed by a vote of 240-185 to end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the reproductive health clinic which provides abortion services, contraception, and HIV testing. Voting split mostly down party lines with only 10 Democrats voting for the bill and seven Republicans voting against it.

Linda J. Bilmes, a lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School, said she attributed the success of the bill to a new set of members of Congress elected on a platform of deficit reform.

Bilmes, a leading expert in U.S. budgeting, added that programs like Planned Parenthood are often underfunded because Congress tends to budget thinking in the short term, often ignoring programs that will prove valuable over time.

“This kind of decision making which permeates is the problem here in my mind,” Bilmes said. “Planned Parenthood is very susceptible to this kind of thinking because it pays off only in the future.”

Jane J. Mansbridge, a professor at the Kennedy School, wrote in an e-mail that the effects of the act were “devastating” and the idea that cutting Title X will reduce the federal deficit is “absurd.” She added that in Boston, eliminating Title X will have a negative effect on not only Planned Parenthood, but also other organizations that serve poor communities.

“To cut this form of health-care spending for poor people at a time when so many people have lost jobs and so many families are without any breadwinner is almost inconceivably cruel,” Mansbridge wrote in an e-mail.

But not everyone agreed with Mansbridge’s analysis.

Christopher L. Oppermann ’13, a member of True Love Revolution—the student advocacy group that promotes premarital abstinence—and an editor of The Salient, said cutting funding for Planned Parenthood was good because the program has a history of circumventing laws and the national government should not fund family planning organizations.

“I think it’s something the states could do if they wanted to,” Oppermann said. “I don’t think the federal government has the legal authority. It’s a good rule of thumb that money is managed and spent better at a local level.”

—Staff writer Melanie A. Guzman can be reached at melanieguzman@college.harvard.edu.

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