Congress, We See You Trying to Defund Family Planning

Remember when, after the midterm elections, Mitch McConnell said that his goal was to make Republicans “less scary”?  I have news for him, and for the rest of the GOP leadership: you’re failing.  And if the Republicans want to claim they’re not waging a war on women, their recent move to de-fund family planning programs through Title X make it clear that much as they may claim they are just being “fiscally responsible” or that they are trying to respect what the voters want, their real motive is, frankly, misogynistic in nature.

As far as I can tell, a lot of the reporting on this new budgetary proposal has portrayed this as yet another attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, and it is true that Planned Parenthood Federation of America is one of the largest and best-known Title X organizations in the United States, but it is not the only one. Back when Title X was initially introduced, it had broad bi-partisan support; in fact, Richard Nixon actually stated that “no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition”.  Today, it funds over 4000 health clinics and provides no- or low-cost family planning services to individuals who make less than $25,000 a year, and has made a huge difference in the lives of low-income individuals and families in the United States.

“An elimination of Title X would have a devastating impact on the 4.7 million Americans who may no longer have access to high-quality, patient-centered family planning and sexual health care services,” said Clare Coleman, CEO and president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, in a comment to the Huffington Post. “For many of these women and men, a Title X-funded health center is their only access point to the health system and the only health care they receive all year.”

Unfortunately, Title X in general and Planned Parenthood in particular have been under attack for several years now (in fact, Planned Parenthood has its own tag on this blog because attempts to de-fund it were so frequent when I first started blogging).  Spurred by a shift in the Republican party towards the right, and prompted by the increasingly loud voices of the anti-choice minority, Congress has repeatedly managed to conflate Title X funding with funding for abortion, despite the fact that Hyde Amendments prohibit any funding of abortion through federal taxpayer dollars.  Never mind that the majority of the country is pro-choice; Congress seems determined to eradicate any semblance of support for anything remotely related to abortion.

There are two reasons I am willing to say that these actions are not about “protecting life”, which is the stated reason why the anti-choice lobby opposes abortion, and is really about controlling and shaming pregnant people for making their own reproductive choices.  The first is that if one really wants to reduce abortion rates, one should be investing in preventative measures like contraception.  Realistically speaking, centuries of shaming women for having sex has not actually resulted in women not having sex, and making abortion illegal only serves to make it riskier; the best way to reduce the demand for abortion is to increase access to birth control and adequate sex education, but Congress doesn’t seem interested in doing either; in fact, they are doing the opposite with this move to eliminate funding for Title X.  Second, given that pregnancy is surprisingly dangerous, and the United States actually has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, eliminating the ability of potentially pregnant people to control when they get pregnant or prevent themselves from getting pregnant if they believe the pregnancy could put them at risk, in no way protects life.  Realistically speaking, family planning saves lives, which means if you’re against family planning, calling yourself pro-life seems a misnomer.  What these individuals really are is against the bodily autonomy of individuals with the ability to get pregnant.

Congress isn’t just trying to defund Title X, for the record: they are also trying to roll back parts of the Affordable Care Act as well as federal funding for comprehensive sex ed.  Again, this is because Congress is acting on ideologically motivated grounds, to shame individuals who engage in sexual activity outside the proscribed context of marriage, or who (even within the context of marriage) have sex but do not wish to have children.

Where’s that gif I used the last time I had to post about Congress?  Found it…

joshymansickofcongress

It isn’t just ideologically problematic, though, it’s downright impractical, which is the other reason why I, as a citizen and a taxpayer, am appalled by this move.  Abstinence-only sex education has been proven not to work, yet Congress is still pushing to fund it instead of comprehensive sex education.  Family planning programs are incredibly cost-effective, and some studies have even shown that family planning investments through programs like Medicaid actually save states money.  Family planning is also a longer-term investment, allowing individuals to finish their education and pursue higher-paying careers, allowing individuals to break out of the cycle of poverty and to facilitate greater access to services and education for their children.  Even if there are people who do not support funding for these programs, the reality is that people’s tax dollars go towards things they do not like all the time (for example, my tax dollars presumably help pay Mitch McConnell’s salary, and there is nothing I can do about that), and we should be assessing policies based on the outcomes they produce, particularly when they don’t actively infringe on the fundamental rights of other individuals within our society.

If this were really about providing for good public policy, we would be fully subsidizing family planning and HIV testing, and promoting access to educational programs, but we aren’t.  Congress is allowing a reactionary branch of the Republican party to dictate how Americans are able to access services necessary to evaluate and take care of their own health.  For a party that claims government is too big, the GOP seems determined to make sure it is able to fit in doctors’ offices and people’s bedrooms as often as possible.

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~ by Randi Saunders on June 19, 2015.

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