Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Defense of Planning Parenthood

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo courtesy of Flickr user S.MiRK under Creative Commons 3.0

A week ago, Title X’s biggest problem was under-funding.  But today’s situation is much graver.  In fact, it’s downright frightening.
Our federal spending, upwards of $3 trillion, has created a sticky situation.  After years of irresponsible purchases and short-sighted borrowing, the United States government has no choice but to limit its hand-outs. 
Recently, Republicans put their heads together, and after much sinister hand-rubbing and maniacal laughter, offered this budget resolution—eliminate Title X. 
But how will denying girls the opportunity to play sports save the government money?
Well, it won’t.  Because that’s Title IX.  And we’re talking about Title X—which is equally, if not more important.
Title X is what Planned Parenthood callsthe nation's only program dedicated solely to reducing unintended pregnancy by providing contraceptive and related reproductive health care services to low-income women.”
Passed in 1970 by President Nixon, it signifies a time when Republicans realized the easiest way to cut off the mythical “welfare queen” was to offer her family planning services. 
Title X grants are shared between 4,480 health centers across the nation.  Of the $317 million allocated for women’s health, Planned Parenthood ends up with roughly $75 million.  And it’s money well spent; 33 percent of women in the program regularly choose Planned Parenthood as their healthcare provider.
But last Friday the House approved a bill that would eliminate all Title X funding.  With the additional provision to restrict any federal money from reaching Planned Parenthood, this is obviously an elaborate plan to shut down the largest protector of women’s reproductive rights.  
And it took a man more evil than Nixon to introduce the misguided legislation.
On the right, we have Representative Mike Pence (R-IN), claiming this drastic action will keep abortion providers from receiving federal tax dollars, even though the Hyde amendment has kept that from happening since 1976. 
On the left, we have Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) calling this action “an extreme attack on women's health that threatens the health and lives of millions of women. It would mean less family planning and more unplanned pregnancies and abortions.”
The current situation can be described as a commonsense showdown; by trying to limit women’s access to abortion, the religious right could actually increase the number of abortions across the country. 
While Planned Parenthood provides women accurate information about their legal right to an abortion, they offer a long list of other services, guaranteeing healthy women can have healthy babies when they are ready.
The facilities counsel women about birth control, from abstinence to contraceptives.  And honest consultation about safer sex decreases unintended pregnancies. 
But Planned Parenthood does so much more.  They give pelvic exams.  They test for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.  They provide breast exams, preventative of breast cancer and pap smears, the only way to detect cervical cancer. 
Patients can also get infertility screenings and testing for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes.
Most importantly, recipients are charged based on their income and ability to pay—because some people still believe healthcare is a human right.  Services are subsidized for those at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level. 
Where will these individuals go in a world without Title X?
This is the most illogical move the GOP has made thus far.  By trying to forward their moral agenda, they’re only deepening the existing economic crisis.
According to Planned Parenthood, “each public dollar spent to provide family planning services saves an estimated $3 that would otherwise be spent in Medicaid costs for pregnancy-related care and medical care for newborns.”
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) used financial reasoning to support “the ability of women to plan parenthood,” publicly remembering her own experiences as an 18-year-old mother.  Her entire pregnancy was supported by Medicaid—even the ambulance ride to the hospital when she went into labor. 
So if less family planning creates more needy families, how does that save money?
“Public policy has treated poor children and women who have not have the benefit of planned parenthood with utter contempt,” Rep. Moore said.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) not only defended abortion with a personal testimony, but called out the Republican “vendetta” against Planned Parenthood:

Women have been pummeled by an onslaught of anti-choice legislation.  From the “No Taxpayer for Abortion Act” to the “Protect Life Act” and a flood of state-specific legislation, including Ohio’s very own “Heartbeat Bill” there are obvious motives behind these so-called budget cuts. 
“Now you may not like Planned Parenthood, so be it.  There’s many on our side of the aisle who don’t like Halliburton.  And Halliburton is responsible for extortion, for bribery, for ten cases of misconduct in the federal database, for a $7 billion sole-source contract.  But do you see us, over here, filing amendments to wipe out funding for Halliburton?  No, because frankly, that would be irresponsible,” Rep. Speier said.
While engaging in a war against women, and trying to police women’s sexuality, Republicans have also declared class warfare on the 1.4 million Medicaid patients, both men and women, who regularly use Planned Parenthood services. 
Hopefully the Senate will take a closer look at the data and root their decision in reality, because if passed, the Pence Amendment will not settle anything, except maybe a score.
***Shockingly, my own representative, Bob Latta (R-OH), voted against Planned Parenthood.  I've already signed the petition.  Won't you let the government know where you stand?

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