Just over a month ago, some conservative Members of Congress threatened to shut down Washington if policy riders defunding Planned Parenthood were not included in the federal budget. And just over a week ago, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels did just that, signing a bill that takes reproductive health care away from 22,000 women in his state. Truce on social issues, indeed.
Support from a few conservative Members of Congress notwithstanding, these have been largely partisan fights with progressive champions defending women’s access to family planning services from the right’s attacks.
That’s why news from Maryland this morning is so welcome. There, Governor Martin O’Malley signed the Family Planning Works Act into law, which will make free Medicaid family planning services available to 33,000 more low- and moderate-income women there.
We know that expanding family planning options improves birth outcomes, limits the number of abortions, and even saves state and federal budgets millions per year. But in this environment, Maryland’s new law is an especially fresh breath of air. Its lead sponsors in the House there? Democratic Delegate Heather Mizeur and Republican Delegate Michael Smigiel.
Better still, their legislation – the Family Planning Works Act – was solidly bipartisan. More than a dozen House Republicans joined almost all Democrats in voting to pass it. Nearly half the Senate Republican caucus supported it on the floor.
How did Maryland hit the bipartisan sweet spot? Mizeur and Smigiel laid it out in an op-ed in The Washington Post in early April just after helping get the bill through the General Assembly. They wrote:
Family planning isn’t a Democratic issue, and it’s not a Republican issue. Progressives like Heather should support it because it’s good for the health of women and babies. Conservatives like Michael should support it because it dramatically reduces the number of abortions and saves taxpayer dollars. Everyone should support family planning because it improves lives while saving money…Despite our many differences, this bill helped us reach across the aisle to move our state forward.
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
Once, support for family planning in the Congress knew no party. And with state legislators like Delegates Mizeur and Smigiel setting the example, perhaps bipartisanship has a future, after all.