The GOP's never-ending war on women

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The GOP is once again showing it's out of touch with women, threatening a government shutdown next month over funding of Planned Parenthood in an effort to curtail abortions. Never mind that federal funds can't legally be spent on abortions except in rare cases. Never mind that abortion services are a small percentage of what Planned Parenthood does. Never mind that if the women's health care group is defunded, it will restrict access to birth control, increasing unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, abortions — exactly the opposite of what Republicans say they want.

If conservatives truly want to reduce abortions, they should increase Planned Parenthood's funding; the group estimates that its 700 centers throughout the country already prevent half a million unintended pregnancies each year. But that would require a common sense, thoughtful discussion about what it is that Planned Parenthood does for whom and why, and that doesn't appear to have a place in an election season, when it's particularly popular to rail about issues involving women's bodies.


The fact is that abortions make up 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's medical services, according to the group's most recent annual report. That's not insignificant; it's more than 300,000 abortions per year, which certainly gives anti-abortion advocates something to protest. But the group's educational outreach and contraception and other services vastly outnumber abortions: Planned Parenthood performs 4.5 million tests for sexually transmitted diseases annually and 935,000 cancer-related procedures in addition to 3.6 million contraception services. And for many, especially young adults and low income people less likely to have primary care physicians, Planned Parenthood is the one place they know to go for birth control.

But none of that comes across in the selectively edited, surreptitiously recorded videos politicians pointed to when mounting an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. The recently released recordings show a Planned Parenthood official talking about fetus parts and the cost of preserving aborted tissue for medical studies. No matter what side of the abortion debate you're on, the conversation can be hard to stomach; it's human nature to hear the words "heart" and "lungs" and think potential person, with your mind making the short leap to baby. That's what the GOP is counting on, that emotions will overtake reason; they're trying to stir their conservative core into a frenzy that will carry through to next year's election.


At least 16 of the 17 Republican presidential hopefuls have seized on the sting video, the makers of which claimed it showed Planned Parenthood was selling body parts, and they have called for a range of remedies, including investigating the organization's tissue donation practices, stripping it of its non-profit status and pulling all federal dollars. On Monday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal followed in Rick Perry's footsteps and terminated Planned Parenthood's Medicaid provider agreement, cutting off access to the group's services for his state's low-income residents; if history is a guide, however, the move is likely to end up in the courts. Also Monday, a bill to defund Planned Parenthood failed in the Senate, leading to a push for a rider on the government's spending bill next month that would force Congress to either defund Planned Parenthood or shut down the government.

Really? We're going to shut down the government over something we've been doing for 45 years? The federal government has been funding Planned Parenthood since 1970, when Congress enacted Title X, allowing federal funding for contraception and family planning.

Pulling the roughly $132 million in Title X funds wouldn't shutter Planned Parenthood, which has said the allocation makes up about a ninth of its overall $1.1 billion in revenue. Still, it would be painful, and it would have consequences — something women should keep in mind as they choose their political representatives.

During the last presidential election cycle, Republicans were branded as fighting a "war on women" that was against equal pay, domestic violence protections and access to family planning services, including abortion. Two years later, a 2014 poll commissioned by two Republican groups found that female voters still thought the GOP was "stuck in the past," "intolerant" and "lacking in compassion."

Yet they're choosing women's access to health care as a rallying cry this election cycle. Will they ever learn?