Pema Levy

Pema Levy is an assistant editor at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Mitch Daniels Put to the Abortion Test

Since Republicans failed to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a few states have decided to do it themselves. First up, Indiana, where the Senate passed a funding ban last week. But, as the Indianapolis Star reports , it’s not that simple: Under federal law, states cannot choose which organizations are allowed to provide family planning to Medicaid patients. The Planned Parenthood ban could now cost the state all $4 billion of its federal funds for family-planning services. For right-wingers who want to defund Planned Parenthood, this is great news. Since the vast majority of what Planned Parenthood does is provide contraception, testing, and screening, defunding the organization is a direct attempt to make family planning, and other medical services, unavailable to low-income women. While Republican lawmakers constantly claim that their preoccupation with Planned Parenthood is because it provides abortion, it's pretty obvious it's about contraception too. So the fact that...

The Texas Baby Boom

The Texas House recently voted to slash $61 million out of the state’s family-planning budget, which would leave just $37 million over the next two years to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The consequences should be obvious, but state lawmakers needn’t go beyond their own borders to see the results of underfunded family-planning and sex-education programs. As Gail Collins writes in The New York Times today: Terrible sex education programs and a lack of access to contraceptives leads to a huge number of births to poor women. (About 60 percent of the deliveries in Texas are financed by Medicaid.) Texas also leads the nation in the number of teenage mothers with two or more offspring. The Texas baby boom — an 800,000 increase in schoolchildren over the last decade — marches off to underfunded schools. Which are getting more underfunded by the minute... As it stands now, 200 teenage girls in Texas become pregnant every day. According to the Brookings Institution, the proposed cut to the...

The Voucher Revival

Conservative efforts to bring vouchers back to the District just highlight how much such programs have fallen out of favor.

Michelle Rhee, former D.C. public schools chancellor, and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
In the last-minute horse-trading and compromising before reaching a budget deal, House Speaker John Boehner won from Democrats a small, weird concession: the renewal and expansion of the District of Columbia's school voucher program. Known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, it was the first federally funded voucher system. Congress ran it from 2004 until 2009, when the Obama administration began to wind it down. The District -- already the epicenter of aggressive school-reform measures -- woke up last Saturday morning and found that its old voucher program had returned. For years, conservatives preached the virtues of vouchers programs as a solution to the country's ailing education system (D.C.'s program always played a large role in that mythology). But in the last few years, Democrats and Republicans have largely reached a consensus on the issue of school reform. Charter schools and teacher accountability have now replaced vouchers as the new cause célèbre. In this sense...

The Cost of Cutting Family Planning Abroad

One area where Republicans were looking to trim fat from the budget was international family planning. When the House passed H.R.1, their ideal budget, at the end of March, they slashed family-planning assistance by $200 million, a 30 percent reduction. In the final budget, that number has been reduced to $73 million. Based on calculations by the Guttmacher Institute, here’s what that translates into: 4.5 million fewer women and couples receive contraceptive services/supplies; Roughly 1.4 million more unintended pregnancies, 600,000 more unplanned births; 450,000 more unsafe abortions; 3750 maternal deaths; 17,250 children would lose their mothers. The new budget also cuts $15 million from the United Nations Population Fund, which provides family-planning assistance in 150 countries. As Republicans in Congress tried to defund Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning in the last few months, cuts Americans oppose, they were portrayed as radical by going after contraception and...

D.C. Mayor Gray's Arrest

Mayor Vincent Gray and several Council members were arrested yesterday evening while protesting the budget deal on Capitol Hill. The deal struck between Republicans and the White House used D.C. as a bargaining chip, including a provision blocking D.C. from putting local funds toward abortions for low-income women. “John, I will give you D.C. abortion. I am not happy about it,” Obama reportedly said in negotiations. Gray’s arrest may be partly a stunt to raise his approval ratings, but it gets at a deep injustice. There’s a perverse logic to sacrificing some low-income women for the well-being of other low-income women (the deal likely saved Planned Parenthood and Title X funding). After the deal was announced, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton suggested that D.C. statehood was an unrealistic goal at the moment and that the city should focus on ensuring autonomous “home rule” instead; similarly, the Washington City Paper ’s Mike Maddon tweeted after Gray’s arrest, “I'd probably take...

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