When Republican leaders in Washington don’t feel like governing, they attack women’s health care and abortion rights. That’s what happened this week, as a focus on defunding Planned Parenthood jumped to the head of the line in legislative priorities for the House of Representatives. That, and launching vicious personal attacks on Cecile Richards, the organization’s CEO.
But Planned Parenthood is not going down, far from it. In fact, I predict the organization will be both better understood and more admired over the coming months. It’s already starting: a new poll shows not only Planned Parenthood enjoying widespread and deep support, but also politicians who support the organization.
Hillary Clinton summed up the feelings of millions of women when she said this on CBS’s “Face the Nation:”
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about those Planned Parenthood videos. Have you watched them?
CLINTON: I have seen excerpts from them. And I have certainly read about them. And what I am troubled by are the misleading, inaccurate allegations about them that we heard from Republicans at their debate. This is really an attack on Planned Parenthood, which provides a lot of health services, from cancer screenings, to contraceptive services, to so many other of the needs women have. And to shut down the government, which some Republicans are advocating, over funding for Planned Parenthood, which takes care of millions of women’s health needs, is just the height of irresponsibility.
DICKERSON: That’s the policy debate this has turned into. But what was your reaction just when you watched them?
CLINTON: Well, look, as Planned Parenthood has said, these were misleadingly edited. They were intentionally taken out of context. The fact is that, if we want to have a debate in this country about whether we should continue using — or doing fetal research, then it’s not only Planned Parenthood that should be involved in that debate. All of the experts, all of the scientists, all of the research institutions, everybody who is looking for cures to Parkinson’s, for example, should be asked, should we continue this?
Don’t expect Sec. Clinton’s call for a reasoned, fact-based discussion to get anywhere with House Republican leaders. This week, the House is expected to vote on a bill that would establish what Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) called “a Benghazi-style committee to attack Planned Parenthood,” and investigate the discredited videos that people like Carly Fiorina keep insisting contain footage that’s not there.
(Over the weekend, Chuck Todd pressed Fiorina on this point, saying “There is no evidence that the scene you described exists. Are you willing now to concede that you exaggerated that scene?”
To which Fiorina replied, “Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck.”)
What Carly Fiorina and her extremist pals are trying to do, of course, is not only smear Planned Parenthood, but shame women who terminate their pregnancies. AsRH Reality Check has shown, their smear-and-shame campaign includes “developing pseudoscience and making false claims, thereby trying to influence public opinion and legislation for purposes not supported by science and antithetical to public health.”
So-called “crisis pregnancy centers” are notorious for misleading women about their reproductive health. This compelling report from NARAL Pro-Choice America quotes one investigator who said,
“…the counselor said that I did not want to get an abortion and kill my baby. She stated that abortions were dangerous, had many side effects, and many women bleed to
death on the table. She later commented that many women commit suicide after having an abortion.”
Though there’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that abortion is linked to a greater risk of mental health problems, this framework is often used to justify passing additional restrictions on the procedure. Seven states, for instance, have mandatory counseling laws that require pregnant women to receive information about abortion’s negative psychological consequences before they’re allowed to proceed. Some of those materials specifically reference “postabortion traumatic stress syndrome,” a supposed disorder that isn’t recognized by the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association.
But here’s some good news: the same study found that 95 percent of women who had abortions felt it was the right decision, both immediately and over 3 years. In other words, all the untold dollars spent over all these years, lying to us about our reproductive health in order to make us regret abortion? Failed.
Unwilling to let truth get in the way of a good smear campaign, extremists are also claiming — falsely — that defunding Planned Parenthood would not disrupt women’s access to health care. In fact, other federally funded health clinics don’t offer the OB-GYN services that Planned Parenthood and other Title X family planning clinics do. According to Mother Jones, most of the other clinics
don’t even appear to have a certified OB-GYN on staff. The clinics are mostly general practice, meaning they may lack equipment and expertise to deliver reproductive health care to women.
While the [non-family-planning] clinics do accept Medicaid, they are not set up to take the massive influx of patients that would result from a shutdown of Planned Parenthood. What’s more, many private reproductive health care clinics–those that aren’t represented on the list–don’t take Medicaid at all. That’s because the program pays just a fraction of what private insurers will reimburse.
The claim that community clinics could replace Planned Parenthood represents “a fundamental misunderstanding of how the health care system works.”
Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, is set up to handle large numbers of Medicaid patients. Nearly half of all Planned Parenthood patients use Medicaid coverage, and more than a third of women who receive publicly funded family planning care rely on Planned Parenthood.
So, let’s recap: Defunding Planned Parenthood would deprive millions of women of family planning services, including contraception, that they cannot access anywhere else. That means millions more unintended pregnancies. Which lead to higher rates ofmaternal and infant mortality. Which also lead to significantly higher risks ofdomestic violence homicide. Politicians who want to take our country there are anything but “pro-life.”
Women voters understand this. In fact, the more extremists go after birth control, the more people voice support for access to abortion care as well as contraception. For example: After the Republicans took control of the House in the 2010 elections, they spent two years trying to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. Not only did they fail, but according to post-election polling conducted by Hart Research Associates and Lake Research Partners, by the time the 2012 elections came around more than 60 percent of all voters disagreed with Romney’s position on eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, banning legal abortion services, and restricting access to affordable birth control. Women voters had even higher rates of disapproval. Fully 77 percent of voters were telling exit pollsters they wanted Roe v Wade to remain the law of the land.
The reason why attacking women’s access to reproductive health care brings so much failure is actually pretty simple: it goes against the fundamental values of equality, mutual respect, and human rights that our country stands for. When asked what they thought women should experience when having an abortion, strong majorities said the experience should be
- Informed by medically accurate information
That tells you, right there, how completely out of touch the current crop of Republican leaders are.
Finally, here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: Richard Nixon was right about something.
Let me explain. (Please!)
In 1969, during the debate over the law that became Title X, which expanded federal government funding for family-planning services for low-income women, President Nixon said,
It is clear that the domestic family planning services supported by the Federal Government should be expanded and better integrated. It is my view that no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.