Planned Parenthood, often the only healthcare resource available to women in low income communities, provides life-saving services such as pregnancy testing, breast exams, HIV tests and cervical cancer screenings. But on Feb. 17, the Republican-run U.S. Congress voted to cut off its funding for no other reason than the religious beliefs of one congressman.
Republican Rep. Mike Pence, a long time opponent of Planned Parenthood, led the charge. His amendment to the H.R.1 Recovery Act would end all federal funding to the women’s health clinic.
To say that Pence’s plan is wrong would be an understatement. Pence’s amendment is monumentally misguided, misogynistic and disgusting.
At the 2010 Values Voter Summit, a convention of sorts for evangelical conservatives, Pence described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” He says that his amendment aims to end public funding for abortion.
But Planned Parenthood, like Medicaid, is already subject to the Hyde Amendment of 1976, which prevents the use of public money for elective abortions. Before Congress, Pence himself said, “I understand that current laws and regulations prevent (public) funds from directly funding abortions.”
Pence cannot stop Planned Parenthood from using public money for abortions, because it isn’t. And he can’t stop the group from performing abortions with private funds. So Pence’s plan will cut funding for Planned Parenthood across the board, effectively shutting the organization down and preventing it from performing abortions of any kind, for any reason, including in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk.
This amendment is not motivated by fiscal concerns, as some conservatives have posited. Planned Parenthood receives only about $75 million in federal funds per year, enough to sustain about four hours of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The amendment is motivated solely by the religious fervor of the evangelical right wing, which seems addicted to imposing its will on the rest of the nation.
Many Christian conservatives don’t like the idea of their tax dollars being used to fund any kind of abortions, elective or otherwise. Their gripe is not unreasonable; they are ideologically opposed to abortion, so they don’t want to pay for it.
But many Americans who are ideologically opposed to war are still required to fund our efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And like many Americans, I am ideologically opposed to religion, yet my tax dollars are still being used to fill the hole left by tax exemptions for churches.
We might not always like how our taxes are spent, but that’s pluralism for you.
Some have pointed to the recent accusations of corruption within Planned Parenthood as justification to strip funding from a vital source of woman’s healthcare. A number of employees have been fired, and if anyone in the organization is guilty of illegal activity, I agree that they should be prosecuted.
But the existence of a handful of unscrupulous employees is not cause to shut down the entire organization. We would not shut down the police force because of a few crooked cops, nor would we cut funding to public schools because of a few lascivious teachers.
Pence’s plan should be seen for what it is: an attempt to push his religion on the underprivileged women of America, and an example of just how deeply Christian fundamentalism has infiltrated the GOP. The amendment will likely die in the Senate, as it should, but it ought to serve as a warning to the egalitarian voter against the odious mixture of religion and politics.