BY JOHN S. WILSON
Lost in the Republican war against Planned Parenthood and similar family planning clinics — leading to stripped federal and state dollars and clinic closures — are the consequences: far less access to a wide range of preventative care and birth control for low-income women.
On its face, the Republicans’ argument has its merits, one of which is based on morality and the other on economics. They say choking off support for abortion providers will lead to less abortions and re-emphasize our society’s commitment to nurturing life. Furthermore, they believe, it begs the question: to what extent should taxpayer money be used to support family planning services?
That’s a valid question that warrants further discussion.
The Morality Myth
But look deeper at their argument and you’ll see fissures larger than potholes on Baltimore’s most neglected streets. First: the myth of morality: While Republicans would like to redefine Planned Parenthood as being synonymous with abortion, the reality is that abortions accounted for 3% of their services in 2009, according to the WashingtonPost. And it’s the other 97% of services that federal taxpayer funds support, as federal law bars the use of public money for abortions. So if federal law has long provided a remedy for avoiding the financing of abortions, why are Republicans trying to reinvent the wheel?
This isn’t to say Planned Parenthood provides few abortions. Admittedly, they are the nation’s largest abortion provider. In 2009 three million women were served and 329,000 abortions were performed. So one would think Republicans would be supporting all efforts to increase the use of birth control and reproductive care to decrease abortions in the first place. But they aren’t.
Instead, Republicans and their conservative base are attacking, intensely and successfully, federal Title X funding that is the predominant method of financing family planning for low-income women nationwide.
The Economic Myth
In Texas, the Medicaid Women’s Health Program is in jeopardy because Title X funding — which accounts for 90% of its budget — has been suspended due to a state law that illegally restricted health care providers, according to the NewYorkTimes. That would leave 400,000 women without access to preventative and reproductive care, including STI screenings, blood glucose screening, Pap Smears, abstinence counseling, infertility counseling, and a range of contraception methods.
Republicans are on the wrong side of public health and the wrong side of economics. “A 2009 Congressional Research Service report cited federal estimates that Title X helps prevent nearly a million unintended pregnancies annually. Reproductive health experts say that saves money, that every dollar spent on family planning saves about $4 in maternity and infant care,” according to the New York Times.
So this argument comes back to a simple reality: restricting access to birth control promotes the number of unwanted pregnancies, which later cost society far more in medical care and social services. Republicans are rushing to solve a problem we don’t have and are creating consequences that we can’t afford.
In the war against Planned Parenthood Republicans are no doubt winning. In state after state legislatures are stripping funding and turning down federal dollars that provide Title X money for family planning purposes.
JOHN S. WILSON has over four years experience as a freelance journalist with over 100 editorials in regional and national publications, including The Huffington Post, Black Enterprise, Mediaite, The Grio, CNN, GigaOM, and The Loop 21. His commentary has been dissected on or has appeared in The New York Post, ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann,’ ‘The Young Turks,’ and other national outlets. He can be reached by Twitter @johnswilson1