Because they love babies so much, anti-choice activists are going after Planned Parenthood — one of the nation’s largest providers of abortion-prevention methods and education.
The majority of Planned Parenthood’s budget goes to contraception, STI testing and treatment, and cancer screening. Only three percent of PP’s budget is spent on abortion services, and none of that comes from taxpayer dollars:
Being relatively savvy, none of the anti-choicers interviewed by the Wall Street Journal owned up to the fact that they’re going after Planned Parenthood because of the abortion/contraception issue. For most of us, the fact that PP provides contraception to low-income women and teenagers is a good thing, because it means fewer unwanted pregnancies (and fewer abortions). But for anti-choice leaders, contraception and abortion are part of the same problem: They allow women to “get away” with having sex, and that is a big problem in their ideal world.
I’ve written about this quite a bit before, but to rehash the basics: For leaders of the anti-choice movement (who I separate out from individual people who are uncomfortable with abortion and identify as “pro-life”), there is a greater cultural war being waged here, and it has little to do with whether abortion ends a life or not. It’s more about women’s place in society and the family, and female autonomy generally. In the far-right ideal, men are breadwinners and heads of households, and women are baby-makers, housekeepers and helpmeets. It’s not enough to simply allow individual families to choose how egalitarian (or not) they will be, because in practice, families — including religious and conservative families — are more egalitarian and progressive than the right-wing model demands (although far less egalitarian and progressive than to what a feminist model aspires). When you give people a choice, a lot of them actually have the audacity to choose independence and autonomy, which is a big problem for the ultra-conservative ideal. And so they try and create legal barriers to that autonomy, which they hope will force women (and men) into a conservative family structure.
Limiting abortion and contraception access are two key components to that strategy, along with marginalizing and shaming single mothers, and limiting their access to resources. That’s precisely why supposed “pro-life” leaders who love babies oppose expansions to social welfare programs like Head Start, early childhood education, aid to women with dependent children, child care for low-income women, early childhood nutrition programs, and on and on. It’s why instead they support “marriage promotion” programs — because, in their view, it’s better to just get heterosexually hitched to whoever, however unhappily, than to go at it independently. It’s one reason why “pro-life” politicians vote against things like the Ledbetter act, which would have allowed women who suffered pay discrimination could recoup lost wages — because ensuring that women are paid fairly means that women might be able to achieve greater independence and won’t have to rely on their better-paid husbands. And it’s why they oppose contraception and abortion access — because without contraception and abortion, women are going to get pregnant when they don’t want to be, and might then be shamed and coerced either into waiting until marriage to have sex or getting married as soon as they get pregnant. (What about all the married women who want to determine the number and spacing of their children through contraception? Well, allowing women to do that would also help out on the autonomy front, and since marriage is supposed to be a male-dominated arrangement, better to just make sure that women run the risk of getting pregnant every single time they have sex, and are solely responsible for the care and upbringing of those children).
No national “pro-life” groups support contraception access and comprehensive sexual health education, despite the fact that those are the most effective ways to lower the abortion rate. Anti-choice groups and politicians routinely oppose legislation that would actually help children and families. And they oppose Planned Parenthood because PP gives women the tools they need to determine their own reproductive futures, which opens the door to allowing them to choose their futures generally.
Beyond the tired old anti-choice political opposition to Planned Parenthood, it’s also worth pointing out that we’re in the midst of an economic crisis wherein millions of people are losing their jobs and losing their health insurance. We don’t have a comprehensive national health care system, and local clinics that serve people of all income levels are going to be increasingly necessary as the numbers of unemployed and uninsured rise. It’s abhorrent that anti-choicers would choose this moment to try and strip resources to one of the country’s largest providers of reproductive health care — especially a provider that offers crucial services like contraception and cancer screenings. Plus, common sense dictates that when unemployment is up and insurance coverage is limited, it’s not the best time for a lot of people to have babies, and I’d guess that there are going to be a fair number of women who are going to want to make sure that they don’t get pregnant at a time of instability and limited resources. So Planned Parenthood’s services are going to be pressured from all sides.
Planned Parenthood’s services are invaluable to millions of women and men across the country. Shame on anti-choicers for their politically-motivated targeting of PP — and their attempts to block low-income women from accessing basic reproductive care.
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