It's Not About the Budget: GOP Will Likely Shut Down Gov't Over Birth Control

Let's be clear: the Tea-Party-driven GOP agenda has never been about "fiscal restraint" but instead has been an extension of the same old tired culture wars with an even nastier edge. And those wars on the environment and women's bodies are what will precipitate an increasingly-likely government shutdown tomorrow.

One more time: restricting women's rights to access health care, to access birth control, to have bodily autonomy is in no way incidental, but absolutely central to the sticking point that may very well grind the entire US government to a halt--and women's advocates have been predicting this for months.

The AP reports that Harry Reid is increasingly pessimistic and concerned about the possibility for a shutdown. Why? Because for his opponents, slashing family planning resources at home and abroad--oh, and rejecting of clean air, too, are more important than the actual budget. In fact, both sides have largely come to an agreement on the numbers for the new budget.

In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that late-night negotiations have largely produced an agreement on how much to cut spending but that Republicans are insisting on rewriting the Clean Air Act and injecting the volatile abortion issue into the spending debate.

“The issue is ideology, not numbers,” Reid said. “The two main issues that are holding this matter up are … reproductive rights and clean air. These matters have no place on a budget bill.”

This is a golden opportunity for the Democrats to publicize, repeatedly, why exactly the Republicans are ding something that will cost the government and taxpayers a huge amount of money and leave thousands upon thousands people jobless and stranding without vital services: because they don't want sexually-active women accessing health care.

The mainstream media has been repeating the Republican talking point that this is a battle over "abortion." But it's in fact, not: while abortion remains legal, the longstanding Hyde amendment prohibits federal funds from going to abortion already. What this bill would do is eliminate funding for other services, preventative ones, that women--particularly low-income, young, or otherwise disadvantaged women--desperately need. These are services, like the ones provided by Planned Parenthood, that actually save taxpayer money (birth control and preventative health screenings obviously are less expensive than the alternative).

This shutdown won't be about abortion. It will be about women's health. And that's unacceptable. And as Jed Lewison notes at Daily Kos:

There's still time to get a deal done, especially if it's just a matter of Republicans dropping their insistence on hard-line policy provisions, but if the GOP does shut the government down for ideological reasons, the punishment from voters is bound to be severe.
AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at April 7, 2011, 5:44am