The first portion of the Fund's legislation is based on FFL's seventeen years of work on college campuses to address the unmet needs of pregnant women, birthmothers, and parents. An FFL-inspired bill in Michigan served as the model for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act, which enjoyed bipartisan support and led to the creation of a core element of the Pregnancy Assistance Fund. Through a matching grant, institutions of higher education will develop resources for the underserved population of pregnant and parenting students, including birthmothers.[Note: There is some discrepancy as to the amount; while Feminists for Life reported $24 million, LifeNews reported $27 million. The Health and Human Services website confirms that $27 million is the correct total.]
The second section of the fund is devoted to teen mothers, and was largely shaped by the first section of the bill creating services for pregnant and parenting students and birthmothers in college.
The third portion of the bill is devoted to serving pregnant women who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. FFL has a long record of activism for victims of violence. "As the only pro-life group active in the coalition to pass the Violence Against Women Act in 1995, and the only feminist organization to support the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, Feminists for Life is eager to see grantees working on behalf of this vulnerable population in need."
You'll recall that, when the funds were first announced, there was some suspicion on the part of pro-life leaders, who essentially argued that the Obama adminstration couldn't be trusted to ensure that this wouldn't become an abortion funding stream. The fact that FFL plans to work directly with universities in administering the program has alleviated my concerns in that regard for now.
This is a step in the right direction, but as Care Net president Melinda Delahoyde pointed out in a LifeNews.com article, it is only a small one. Compare the $27 million to Planned Parenthood's annual federal funding of $350 million. That's a fair criticism.
As for the criticisms by others in the article, I am unpersuaded. That abortion advocates describe the legislation as "common ground on abortion" and claim it for themselves is very annoying, but it is not a good reason to oppose the Fund. Nor is the fact that it addresses other women's issues in addition to abortion; as FFL president Serrin Foster puts it, "Oftentimes these issues overlap, especially when it comes to victims of coercion who are in high school, college, or living in poverty. The Pregnancy Assistance Fund is offering real help for the most vulnerable with long-lasting benefits for all."