Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It’s anti-choice, and anti-American

  A. Baseball. Hot dogs. Motherhood. Birth control pills.

    Q. Name four things that are as American as apple pie.

    Anyone who would exclude any of the items above is living deep, deep in another century.

    Someone, please, ask the Republican Party in which century it intends for us to reside.

    A report a couple of years ago in The New York Times Magazine described what we hereby discuss: a politically driven "war on contraception."

    Anyone who wages war on contraception wages war on mothers. That means you, Congressman Mike Pence.

    Pence, R-Ind., has sponsored a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation's front-line stalwart in reproductive health care services for the poor.

    Such a horrible mistake can't happen anytime soon, because Democrats control the wiser chamber, and Barack Obama holds the veto pen.

     But one could see it happening otherwise. This is because the Republican Party has stopped using its brain on women's reproductive health. Instead, it is using its tailbone — or, more precisely, the cartilage connection to it that is the religious right — the tail that wags the dog.

    The pitch: Because some Planned Parenthood chapters perform abortions (using private dollars as the law dictates), it should receive no Title X funding for all else it does.

      An important aside here: Anyone who supports reproductive rights should say "thank goodness" for clinics that provide a safe means of terminating unwanted pregnancies. The alternative — back alleys, coat hangers, assorted desperation measures (read "Cider House Rules") — is what pro-choice Americans should fight now and forever.

       Back to Pence's abominable bill: Targeting Planned Parenthood ignores two things: (1) Every service it performs is protected by the law; (2) The vast portion of its services help women avoid wrenching crises — crisis pregnancies foremost, but also sexually transmitted diseases and more.

       Pence is like the clueless protester outside of the clinic who tells young women, "Don't abort." But, then, the first woman is there to get birth control pills. The second is there to get a Pap smear. The third is there for fertility counseling. Yeah, she's trying to get pregnant. Rep. Pence, you should be ashamed.

     This bill seeks to sacrifice all on the altar of anti-abortion politics. But who does more to prevent abortion than the very agencies and entities helping women make medically sound decisions? How many abortions has Mike Pence prevented in his entire life? How many more abortions, in wrenchingly inhospitable settings, would result from undermining the infrastructure by which poor women make sound decisions?

     But, then, this is not about abortion. This is about contraception, who can have it, and who can't. It's about policymakers who are openly hostile to family planning and, as such, are divorced from reality.

     A 2005 Harris Poll reported that 90 percent of Americans supported the availability of contraception. Check that. The poll said that 90 percent of Catholics supported the availability of contraception. The percentage for Americans as a whole: 93 percent. 

     And, so? During the George W. Bush administration, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote the White House repeatedly seeking an answer to the question: What is your position on birth control? Finally after five letters, she got a response from an assistant secretary of health. The administration, it said, "supports the availability of safe and effective products and services to assist responsible adults in making decisions about preventing or delaying conception."

      Smart. Sound. And in line with how Americans think and live. So, what in the blazes is today's Republican Party thinking?

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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