Republicans Expand War on Planned Parenthood


The House of Representatives is investigating Planned Parenthood, a lot. Planned Parenthood is an organization that was founded in 1921 by Margaret Sanger, who had the radical idea that life would be better if people who had babies actually wanted to have babies. Since then it has expended to add on a list of things that people shouldn’t want, such as cancer, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure. Planned Parenthood also provides abortion services at some of its clinics, and Republicans don’t like abortions under any circumstances, or at least they don’t want poor women to have abortions. The Party is more tolerant of rich women, at least for now.

Abortion became legal in 1973, and originally was covered by Medicaid, the health financing program for the poor, just as any other medical procedure, but in 1976 Congress passed the Hyde Amendment named for Representative Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois, Under these laws, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs are barred from paying for abortions. Justice Thurgood Marshall, in his dissent from the majority opinion in the 1980 Supreme Court decision upholding the Hyde Amendment wrote, “The Hyde Amendment is designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion”

Note that in 1970 New York became the first state to legalize abortion on demand through the 24th week of pregnancy, and travel agents offered trips to Niagra Falls (Hawaii had legalized abortion even earlier, but only for state residents). According to the IRS, travel for medical care is deductible, if you itemize deductions. Clearly, abortions are easier to afford if you have money.

The $500 million paid to Planned Parenthood through Medicaid does not pay for abortions but covers gynecologic care and general health services which may include diabetes and blood pressure screening, vaccinations, and screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. While so far Congress hasn’t managed to defund Planned Parenthood on a national level, individual states have found ways to cut their contributions to Medicaid, and force the closing of Planned Parenthood clinics, whether the clinics offered abortion services or not. Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, offered a claim to being the Republican nominee for President based on having defunded Planned Parenthood before it became fashionable. (The defunding was not complete, but Planned Parenthood was forced to close five Wisconsin clinics, making it far more difficult for low income women to get care.)

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, who once warned Republicans to stop being the stupid party, also defunded Planned Parenthood, although Louisiana is one of a group of medically underserved states which needs all the help it can get. Louisiana may not have enough physicians or other health care professionals, but according to the CDC it’s first in cases of gonorrhea, second in chlamydia, and third in syphilis and HIV.

In Indiana, state cuts to Planned Parenthood funding forced the closure for five Planned Parenthood clinics, none of which offered abortion, but all of which offered HIV testing. An HIV infected person can go for years without showing any symptoms but still infect others. Without test facilities, there was a major AIDS outbreak (149 cases, but by Indiana standards that’s a lot.) Now, Indiana is trying to develop pop-up clinics that offer HIV testing and treatment along with job counseling and birth certificates.

The Republican Party has been opposing Planned Parenthood for years simply because the organization does provide abortion services at some of its clinics, but the immediate justification is a video offered by the “Center for Medical Progress,” in which, according to the web site, a Planned Parenthood medical director discussed how the “abortion company” sells fully intact aborted babies. The videos, after analysis by Fusion GPS, were found to be so manipulated that “they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict.”

In response to the faked videos, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing, “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.” Proving that the Republican led House of Representatives was approaching the subject with an open mind.

On Sept. 30, in a CNN interview, David Daleiden, the project lead Center for Medical Progress’ anti-Planned Parenthood campaign, admitted that the infamous video was pieced together with footage from a stillborn infant, a miscarriage. It’s not the same thing as an abortion. Also, many health care centers do have tissue donation services for legitimate medical research, and fetal tissue has properties that are unique and may be of value in studies of neurologic diseases.

Bottom line is that Planned Parenthood has provided good and essential care to millions of poor women who have no place else to go, while the Republican Party is now carrying on its war on women and the war on the poor on two fronts. A government run for the purpose of pleasing one party’s extremist base is a failure. Democracy offers a cure – if we’re willing to use it.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2015

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