Monday, August 29, 2011

A Skirmish Against Our Sensibilities

    Writing for the Washington Post, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite of the Center for American Progress proclaims that Republicans have declared a “war on poor women.” In the New York Times editorial “The War on Women,” readers were told that “Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting an assault on women's health and freedom” by proposing to remove federal funding of Planned Parenthood. We are ominously warned that “this is just the beginning.” Those warnings are part of a chorus that includes U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and various media outlets.
    According to the Times editorial, a Republican resolution in the House of Representatives called for “egregious cuts” for Planned Parenthood and the federal family planning program known as Title X which helps low-income women gain access to contraception, cervical cancer screenings (Pap smear and HPV tests), and STD testing. The Times claims that without Title X, an increase in unintended pregnancies would preposterously “result in 400,000 more abortions a year.” The GOP bill “slices $50 million” for “prenatal health care... and health care for 31 million children” and leads the Times to conclude that “[t]hese are treacherous times for women's reproductive rights...”
    In others words, the Republican party is going to kill women, deny health care for 31 million children, and look the other way at “400,000 more abortions a year.” Right.
    Who really believes that dramatically reducing federal funding for Planned Parenthood and similar groups equates to “mounting an assault on women's health?” Such an assertion is tantamount to saying that proposed cuts and cost-saving measures in Medicare and Medicaid (as outlined in President Obama's health care reform law) are an assault on the poor, sick, and elderly.
    In what meaningful way are women's freedoms and reproductive rights assaulted if the government decides to remove subsidies for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood? The demand for the services that Planned Parenthood provides will persist without federal subsidy, and services will continue to be provided albeit at a higher cost for clients.
    The Supreme Court has decided that the Second Amendment entails an individual's right to own a firearm, and yet no one in his right mind would accuse the government of “assaulting” our freedoms if it decides to not subsidize a gun manufacturer or offer tax rebates for ammunition. By the same token, reproductive rights are not “assaulted” when the government doesn't subsidize Planned Parenthood.
    The Times is not alone. also insists that the GOP is embarking on a War on Women. Speaking on behalf of MoveOn in the professionally produced “We Won't Go Back” video (, television actress Lisa Edelstein of “House” fame tells us that Republicans “launched an all-out assault on women's health” in an effort to send women “back to the back alley.” She warns of how the GOP aims to coerce women into implementing coat hangers in their quest for “vital services” (she means abortions), and her message was echoed by “House” co-star Olivia Wilde.
    Incidentally, Edelstein and Wilde are both vegans; abortion is fine, subsidizing abortion is virtuous... but please step away from the sardines.
    The heated rhetoric from the Left surrounding the so-called War on Women is particularly odd when one considers the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona and the widespread condemnation of conservatives and Tea Party activists shortly afterward. The Times faulted “many on the right” for exploiting “invective” and “the arguments of division.” Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that “violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate.” What exactly did conservatives invoke? Dangerous words, of course, like “in the crosshairs” and militaristic jargon like “campaign.”
    Yet, phrases like “War on Women” and “assault on women's health and freedom” are promiscuously being used against conservatives by some of the same outlets that fault conservatives for creating a “climate of hate.” Suppose that some madman (or madwoman) decides to shoot Congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana) because of his opposition to federal subsidies of Planned Parenthood. Will the Times blame... itself?
    Let us hope that sensibility is restored in the debate over federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Many Republicans have already been unfairly derided as enemies of women – and “this is just the beginning.”

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