Between defunding Planned Parenthood and vowing to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with far-right Antonin Scalia-ish “strict constructionist” justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have been persistent foes of reproductive freedom. Attacking Planned Parenthood has been an effective way for Trump to shore up his support among fundamentalist Christians and so-called “pro-life” voters, but Trump, like so many Republicans, fails to mention that abortion is only a small part of Planned Parenthood’s activities—which also include everything from contraception to cancer screenings.
The myth that federal U.S. tax dollars have been funding countless abortions over the years is exactly that: a myth. Back in 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment—which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois and has prohibited the use of federal funds for abortions except in rare cases (namely, rape or incest, or when a woman’s life is physically in danger). So even when federal tax dollars went to Planned Parenthood during the Bill Clinton or Barack Obama eras, it wasn’t for abortions—it was for contraception, cancer screening, PAP smears, breast exams, pregnancy tests, STD tests, and other health services.
In 2017, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that allowed states to withhold federal funds from organizations that perform abortions; Vice President Mike Pence was the tie-breaking vote, and Trump signed it into law. But as Danielle McNally pointed out in an April 17, 2017 article for Marie Claire, the bill wasn’t really an anti-abortion bill per se but was, in effect, an attack on women’s health services in general.
McNally asserted, “Here’s the real rub: because of the Hyde Amendment, no federal taxpayer dollars ever go toward abortions anyway. That means that if the states choose to stop giving Medicaid reimbursements or family planning grants to Planned Parenthood—which, thanks to the new bill, they can—they will be taking money away from preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests, and other women’s health services. Things like the 360,000 breast exams and 270,000 Pap tests Planned Parenthood provides to American women every year.”
Accompanying McNally’s article was a video that was created by the Cancer Survivors Network and featured a young woman from Madison, Wisconsin named Courtney, who explained why Planned Parenthood was so helpful to her. According to the video, one of Courtney’s aunts had died of ovarian cancer; as a result, she was trying to be proactive about getting screened for cancer—and Planned Parenthood was where she was getting her cancer screenings.
In the video, Courtney asserted, “Politicians trying to block my access to Planned Parenthood makes me feel like they have a lack of understanding of what Planned Parenthood is and what Planned Parenthood does.”
Here’s a fact you won’t hear from most Republicans: no organization does more to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. than Planned Parenthood, which thousands of women have been relying on for contraception—including countless women of color. According to Planned Parenthood data, roughly 15% of the 2.4 million people who rely on Planned Parenthood for health services are black, while another 21% are Latino. When Planned Parenthood prevents unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, the result is fewer abortions.
The Christian Right’s hatred of Planned Parenthood goes way beyond abortion. Far-right theocrats believe that contraception is sinful as well, and if Judge Brett Kavanaugh—Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court—is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, it’s quite possible that Griswold v. Connecticut could be on the fundamentalist chopping block along with Roe v. Wade.
Griswold v. Connecticut was the 1965 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Connecticut law that prohibited the sale of contraception to married couples; the Griswold in question was the late feminist Estelle T. Griswold, who was Planned Parenthood’s executive director for Connecticut. The Griswold ruling was very much a right-to-privacy decision, and its language was later employed in Roe v. Wade in 1973 as well as Eisenstadt v. Baird (which in 1972, expanded Griswold’s protection to non-married couples).
In 2005, wingnut talk radio host/author Mark R. Levin asserted that Griswold v. Connecticut was wrongly decided and that the right to privacy “has no constitutional basis and no tangible form.” So, in other words, Levin is perfectly OK with the Christian Right outlawing birth control along with abortion and imposing its dominionist views on Americans whether they like it or not.
Law professor Jessica Mason Pieklo recently explained to Salon why she believes that both Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird could be in danger if the Supreme Court continues moving to the far right. Pieklo asserted, “The contraception decisions are the cornerstones of reproductive and sexual privacy. If you really want to undo those protections, it’s not enough to undo Roe, for example. You need to go back and really get to that heart of the right of privacy.”
GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood are attacks on men as well. When Republicans make it more difficult for women to obtain birth control pills or receive cancer screenings, their husbands or boyfriends are most certainly affected.
Make no mistake: the Christian Right’s unending vendetta against Planned Parenthood is about much more than abortion—it is a vendetta against women’s healthcare in general. And as long as the Christian Right has so much influence in the White House along with both houses of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, the vendetta is likely to escalate.
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