Thursday, October 13, 2011
First they came for abortion, but I didn’t care because abortion was for sluts. Then they came for sex ed, but I didn’t care because the kids can learn all they need to know at home. Then they came for birth control, but… wait a minute! Birth control? I need that! For nearly a decade prochoicers have been warning that abortion foes were gearing up to go after contraception, but the possibility was too far-out for most people to take seriously. And you know prochoicers – they’re always crying wolf. Well, wake up, sleepyheads, it’s happening.
After the Senate rejected a House attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chair of the energy and commerce subcommittee, demanded that PP turn over reams of documents going back 20 years. The official purpose was to see if PP’s abortion services, which cannot receive federal funds, are segregated from contraceptive and other health services, which do receive federal dollars. Since Republicans believe this separation is impossible, who knows what will count as evidence?
Meanwhile, House Republicans continue their attempts to ban federal support for PP, this time through a draft bill on agency funding that would also completely defund Title X, the government’s main family-planning program. Title X, which provides family planning services to more than 5 million mostly low-income people each year, has nothing to do with abortion. Bill supporter and Tea Party Caucus member Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican who opposes raising taxes on the wealthy – did I mention that he’s 24th richest member of Congress? – claims that zeroing out birth control funds for poor women is necessary to lower the deficit. Because what could be cheaper than babies?
As is so often the case in the war on abortion, the most damaging action is in the states. GOP-led governments have voted to cut or eliminate PP funding in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, Texas and New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie, hero of Republicans who also happen to be sane, eliminated the state’s $7.5 million budget for family planning. And yes, Texas, where Gov. Rick “N-wordhead” Perry slashed family planning funds from $111.5 million to $37.9 million. Meanwhile, he boosted aid to anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers to $8.3 million.
Federal judges have forced North Carolina, Kansas and Indiana to drop their plans, and the federal government is picking up the tab in New Hampshire. Poor women in New Jersey, Wisconsin and Texas are out of luck. Note the geographic diversity: Defunding contraception isn’t just a Bible Belt specialty anymore.
Speaking of the Bible Belt, Mississippians will be voting next month on an initiative that would amend the state Constitution by redefining “person” to “include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof.” If passed, the amendment would ban all abortion, possibly even to save the woman’s life. It could also ban in vitro fertilization and the most popular and effective methods of birth control: some forms of the pill and the IUD, as well as the morning-after pill. Never mind that as many as half of all fertilized eggs never implant in the womb. Hold on, blastocysts! In a few short weeks, you may be bona fide citizens of the state with the highest rate of unplanned pregnancy in the country.
Back on Earth, unplanned pregnancies have risen from 47 to 49 percent of all pregnancies. Apparently the anti-contraception crowd won’t be happy until it’s 100 percent.
KATHA POLLITT’s most recent book is The Mind Body Problem: Poems (Random House).