State Funds For Family Planning Lost

Posted: July 01, 1990

HARRISBURG — A dispute over the use of state money for contraceptive services cost family-planning clinics $1 million in state funding, Casey administration officials said yesterday.

As a result, budget negotiators also wiped out another $1 million that Gov.

Casey had earmarked for counseling on abortion alternatives, such as adoption. All told, the last-minute spat chopped $2 million from the budget.

The funding was a relatively small sum in the state's budget that nevertheless spawned controversy when Casey proposed it in February. Its elimination reopened old wounds yesterday, as abortion-rights advocates charged Casey with "outrageous" behavior and the Casey administration questioned the motives of family-planning supporters.

"The budget is not going to contain any (state) money for family-planning services this year," said Dorothy Mann, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania. "It's outrageous that birth control is still too controversial for Pennsylvania and especially for Pennsylvania's governor.

"This will mean, in Philadelphia, we'll have to cut our family-planning program and some clinics may have to close," said Mann.

Everyone involved in the controversy yesterday agreed that the $2 million had been omitted from the final $12.2 billion general-fund budget. But that's about all they agreed on.

Mann said she was told that the family-planning money was removed from the budget because Casey disagreed with her organization's contention that it should be available for contraception.

Casey's press secretary, Vincent P. Carocci, said the money was taken out only after family-planning advocates raised the issue of contraceptives, causing a loose legislative coalition of support "to unravel."

"Any suggestion that the money was torpedoed by the governor's insistence on no funding for contraception is not accurate," Carocci said. "When this proposal was first advanced in February, there was a coalition in place that would have been sufficient to pass the entire $2 million as recommended. All parties interested were aware of that.

"When the family-planning coalition, for whatever reason, raised the issue of contraceptives, the coalition started to unravel," he said. "The decision was made that they would not fight this out on the (House and Senate) floor."

Casey's chief of staff, James W. Brown, said the administration was not willing to open the money to use for contraceptives, partially because such a measure would not have passed the legislature.

"We believe that a majority of the legislators on both sides of the issue could have accepted the compromise as proposed by the governor," Brown said. ''But the insistence on the expenditures for contraceptives would have made the entire package unacceptable to many of those legislators. And I believe that's why the proposal was dropped."

House Majority Leader Robert W. O'Donnell (D., Phila.) and Senate Majority Leader F. Joseph Loeper (R., Delaware) said debate did not center on contraception per se, but where the money would go and how it would be used.

"There was concern expressed that we'd open up the whole abortion debate again," Loeper said. "The general consensus was that we'd take it up at a later time."

Mann conceded that her organization did not want its share of the money, which she estimated at $400,000, unless it could use it for contraception.

"If we can't give out birth control to people, why are they coming to us?" she said.

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