A Bridge Too Far
by Charles Lemos, Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 02:13:46 PM EDT
After the meeting at White House sponsored by President Obama in an attempt to prevent the shutdown of the US government last night, Senate Majority Reid said that the agreement had been reached on every issue except a GOP plan to defund Planned Parenthood.
"The only thing left was women's health," Reid said. "That's a bridge too far," he said. "I am really concerned that this government is going to shutdown" over this issue.
"In the presence of the President of the United States, we went through those they -- the Republicans -- felt were most important," Reid added. "We went through them one by one. They were all resolved -- except the rider dealing with Planned Parenthood."
Just to be clear, the Republicans, now a fully owned subsidiary of the Christian Right, are prepared to shut down the US Government over funding an organization that provides subsidized health care ranging from cancer prevention to birth control. Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check notes the implications:
The Pence amendment, from which the rider originated, would cut off preventive health care for millions of women who need it the most by preventing Planned Parenthood health centers from providing birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, annual exams, and other preventive care to millions of women whose health care is covered by Medicaid and other public health coverage programs. Planned Parenthood serves three million people served in their health centers each year, and two million of those participate in some federal health program.
More than 90 percent of the health care provided by Planned Parenthood is preventive. Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses carry out nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer and 830,000 breast exams. Planned Parenthood health centers also provide affordable birth control to nearly 2.5 million patients, and nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV testing for women and men. The funding that PPFA receives from the federal government goes toward this basic care, and accounts for roughly one-third of Planned Parenthood’s $1 billion annual budget. These funds come from local, state and federal sources, but 90 percent come from Medicaid and other federal sources. Federal funds pay only for cancer screenings, birth control, family planning visits, annual exams, testing for HIV and other STIs, and other basic care.
Moreover, 73 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas. Planned Parenthood provides primary and preventive health care to many who otherwise would have nowhere to turn. According to the Guttmacher Institute, six in ten patients who receive care at a family planning health center like Planned Parenthood consider it their main source of health care.
Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told a summit of women's rights activists she believes Republicans are engaged in a war on women and women's rights.
"There is actually a war on women," Rep. Pelosi told the several hundred activists attending the Women Money Power Summit sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation. "Abortion is one issue but contraception and family planning and birth control are opposed by this crowd too. Understand what is at risk here," Pelosi said, referring to proposals promoted by the Tea Party controlled Republican caucus in the House.
Over the past three months, across the country the GOP has proposed and in some cases successfully enacted some of the most bizarre, incredulous and yes vile legislation ever target against women in the history of the United States.
In Maryland, Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids’ preschool program. Why? There was no need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working. In South Dakota, State Rep. Tim Jensen, a Republican, proposed a bill that would have made it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. The bill was shelved after a Mother Jones article took the story nationally causing a backlash. In Georgia, Bobby Franklin, a GOP state representative from Marietta, proposed a new bill to redefine rape and domestic violence victims as "accusers."
In Idaho, the GOP-controlled legislature gave final approval just yesterday to a bill that would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks. Only when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or physical health could a post-20-week abortion be performed. There, however, are no exceptions for rape or incest. In refusing to consider such exceptions, the bill's sponsor state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, justified his stance by stating that the “hand of the Almighty” was at work. “His ways are higher than our ways,” Crane said. “He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.”
On the national level, Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania introduced the Protect Life Act in February that would ban the use of Federal funds to cover any costs of any health care plan that covers abortions as well as allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion care even when it's necessary to save a woman's life.
It is doubly important to understand what is at stake here. This is not just a battle over abortion funding because the Hyde Amendment already prohibits Federal funding of abortions in most cases. No, this battle is much broader than that. This is a battle for health care. The Republican aim to bar Planned Parenthood from being reimbursed by any federal health program like Medicaid for providing primary and preventive health services including birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment, including HIV testing.
These attacks on reproductive freedom and on the rights of women to comprehensive informed health care are, indeed, a bridge too far. The Senate Majority leader is right in standing up for women because otherwise we might find ourselves living in a theocracy.