In 1993, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted to legalize fetal tissue donations for the research of cures for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and miscarriage. He was in good company: Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and John McCain (R-AZ) also voted in favor of this law that passed 93-4. Instead of debating that issue, however, they want to defund an organization that follows the law that they passed, and Republicans manifest outrage that Planned Parenthood is doing exactly what Congress authorized the group to do.
Fetal-tissue research is vital and helps many people, but maybe conservatives may see their 1993 legislation as a mistake. If so, they can have a renewed debate on this research instead of attacking Planned Parenthood for following the law that they supported 22 years ago. Planned Parenthood only donates tissue if the women wish.
Salivating about an issue that might bring votes and donations to the Republicans, McConnell used Rule 14 to fast-track legislation to defund Planned Parenthood legislation, bypassing committee involvement, and plans to put the bill up for a vote early next week before the August recess. It can’t pass the Senate without votes from all 54 Republicans and another six Democrats.
McConnell doesn’t even have unanimous GOP agreement. GOP Sens. Mark Kirk (IL) and Susan Collins (ME) have already said that they won’t vote to defund the organization. Pro-choice Collins said:
“In my state and many others, Planned Parenthood is the primary provider of women’s health services in certain parts of my state. [I] don’t know how you would ensure that all of the patients of Planned Parenthood could be absorbed by alternative care providers.”
“I do not plan to cut access to basic health care and contraception for women, the majority of whom have no other resources.”
At least one GOP governor also opposes defunding an organization that provides health care for women in his state. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said that an investigation in the state has cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.
Two GOP senators running for president are using the fraudulent videos for campaign fodder. Behind Donald Trump by 16 points, Rubio grandstands instead of participating in the senate: thus far he has an attendance rate this year of 70 percent and has missed 69 votes, more than any other senator. The other fire breather candidate, Ted Cruz (R-TX), is close behind with 55 missed votes and 77 percent attendance from his being out on the presidential campaign trail. (On average, senators miss about 3 percent of their votes with an attendance rate of 97 percent.)
Cruz is leading the cry to shut down the government if his colleagues won’t defund Planned Parenthood. He plans to attach an amendment to the fall appropriations bill, due by October 1, and persuade his colleagues to stop the spending bill if the conservatives don’t get their way. The last time he used this idea—two years ago—the country lost $24 billion during his shutdown. Cruz, however, is counting on Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who led 17 other House members to start the shutdown in the House.
Fortunately, the Los Angeles Superior Court blocked the fraudulent group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) from releasing more video footage of employees who work at StemExpress, after three heavily edited videos resulted in a conservative call to defund Planned Parenthood. California law requires the consent of all parties before a “confidential conversation” is recorded. After the court order, CMP released a fourth video that was not recorded in California.
Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, wrote:
“These extremists created a fake business, made apparently misleading corporate filings and then used false government identifications to gain access to Planned Parenthood’s medical and research staff with the agenda of secretly filming without consent–then heavily edited the footage to make false and absurd assertions about our standards and services.”
She skipped the part that the people in the video used fake names. One of them may have also used a credit card without the owner’s permission, and the California driver’s licenses presented by supposed BioMax employees at a Texas Planned Parenthood affiliate may have been forged.
Consultants to GOP candidates, particularly men, advise them to not mention women when addressing the topic of abortion and Planned Parenthood. Instead, politicians should focus on ultrasounds, fetuses, and graphic details of the procedures to frame opposition to abortion rights. Rape is another topic that should not be mentioned because more and more bills oppose rape victims from having abortions. Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that the “patient” in an abortion is the “unborn baby.” In essence, GOP politicians are told to address pregnancy and abortion as having no connection to a body.
Politicians are also told to claim that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, not true according to medical associations such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Presidential candidates Scott Walker and Rick Perry are showing 20-week ultrasound images of their children, and Marco Rubio tells that the ultrasound shows that “they were children—and they were our children.” Those ultrasounds, a “really cool” thing according to Walker, can show a severe fetal anomaly, but Walker’s new law doesn’t allow the parents to make a decision about their future. A federal appeals that struck down a North Dakota law banning abortion as early as six weeks asked the Supreme Court for a review to Roe v. Wade with the statement that fetal survival outside the womb “is better left to the states.” Again politicians ignore women—as well as medical recommendations.
The Hyde Amendment prevents the government from funding any abortions, and only three percent of Planned Parenthood activities are connected to abortions; far more of its job is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, do educational outreach and keep people alive and well. Defunding Planned Parenthood denies women access to cancer screenings, STI tests, and other essential preventative care are noticeably absent from the picture. Services are also for men as well as women.
The attack on Planned Parenthood may be dangerous for the Republicans. Only 28 percent of voters want to strip the funding, and only 25 percent said they prefer a candidate who would do this. Even after the release of the videos, 52 percent of the people support Planned Parenthood.
A big objection to the videos is that the impersonal language—just like other surgeons use when they’re discussing surgeries. In her blog, Helen Philpot from Texas shares her perspective with her best friend, Margaret Schmechtman of Maine, who she’s known for over 60 years:
“Margaret, this Planned Parenthood scandal seems to be all hat and no cattle–something I’ve come to expect more and more from the religious right. If honesty isn’t your best policy then join the Republican party….
“I’m a nurse so I get that doctors in particular don’t have the best bedside manners when it comes to talking about the science of healthcare. Yes. It’s a science. I didn’t so much appreciate the way they talked about my breasts when I was diagnosed with cancer. They were my breasts after all, but the way my doctor talked about them you would have thought they weren’t attached to my body. So I get it. My late husband, Harold, felt the same way about testicular cancer.
“But that isn’t a crime…. Do I wish that the doctors in those videos displayed a little more compassion? Sure. But do I think the greater show of compassion is respecting the privacy and personal decisions of women to manage their own healthcare? Damn right I do.”
People who want to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood continue to forget that abortion is still legal and that Planned Parenthood isn’t breaking any laws. Taking away funding will cause more abortions because fewer women will have contraception. In addition, most defenders have just one concern—that a fetus emerge to breathe. After that many of them are indifferent to the welfare of these breathing creatures.
Sister Joan Chittister said it best:
If you are a pro-life defunder, then adopt children and donate lots of money to feed, clothe, and house the children—even if you think that this is the parents’ responsibility. Stop religious people from blocking contraceptives for women. Picket courts and prisons to stop executing people who may not be guilty or who may be rehabilitated. Expand your horizons beyond making sure that a fetus can take one breath. Life is not for one second.