Monday, April 3, 2017

The Attack on Planned Parenthood: Don’t Get Too Relaxed…

By Louise A. Blum

Planned ParenthoodFor the moment, thanks to the welcome infighting among Republicans, it would seem that the failure of Trump’s proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act has given Planned Parenthood a reprieve. Like all reprieves, however, this one is certain to be temporary. When asked about Planned Parenthood at a particularly unharmonious Town Hall meeting in North Harmony last month, Reed was quoted as saying: “I do not support taxpayer-funded paying of abortion.” 

Like so many of the things that Congressman Reed and his congressional cohorts say, this comment is intentionally inflammatory, deliberately misleading, and entirely beside the point. In the weeks leading up to the vote, the Right spoke passionately about the need to “defund Planned Parenthood,” a term that, like “taxpayer-funded abortion,” is designed to fuel emotion and obscure the facts. Federal dollars cannot be used to pay for an abortion. We have the infamous Hyde Amendment to thank for that, an amendment described by Thurgood Marshall in his dissenting opinion as “designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion.”

So what was all the fuss about? Not “taxpayer-funded abortion,” that’s for sure. As the ACLU explains, the proposal on the floor this time around involved “legislation that would block patients who qualify for Medicaid from going to Planned Parenthood health centers.” Over half of PP’s health centers are located in rural and/or medically underserved areas. According to the organization, 60 percent of its patients use Medicaid. The real impact of the proposed bill, therefore, would have been this: 2.5 million people would lose access to contraception, cancer screenings, STD tests, family planning services, and in many cases, a judgement-free zone where there is no stigma for seeking care. 

This is especially applicable to transgendered and other members of the LGBTQ community, who would lose what Planned Parenthood refers to as their “safe space.” Another vulnerable population served by this organization are the victims of sexual assault. Formerly known as the Southern Tier Rape Crisis Center, the Sexual Assault Research Center is a vital service of Planned Parenthood.

Framed as an attack on abortion, the real intent of the replacement health care bill was far worse: eliminating access to health care for marginalized groups of people. Trump and Ryan may have pulled the bill this time, but sooner or later, they will come back with another. It may have a different name, it may use different rhetoric, but its intent will be the same: to disenfranchise the people who have always been seen as extraneous by those with power: poor people, people of color, Latinos, members of the LGBTQ community, and assault victims. The same people who always lose in this country. And who will continue to lose even more under the “leadership” of a man whose actions are only as fair, just, and intelligent as the people in his cabinet.

ReedReed is no stranger to the importance of having control over one’s own body. In an impassioned speech to the House in 2014, he spoke openly about the rape of a family member and made his views on sexual violence very clear: “We are going to come together on a national effort and say, sexual violence is not acceptable. Domestic violence is not acceptable. We are going to discuss it openly … in a way that ultimately will lead to there being no more.”

With that speech, Congressman Reed showed both his peers and his constituents that he is capable of both empathy and moral courage. Now he needs to be able to put aside his personal beliefs and extend that empathy to others. One in five women has been raped in this country, a statistic with which Tom Reed is obviously all too familiar. While eager to protect members of his own family, the Congressman is apparently less eager to assist those who fall below the poverty line. Because of her personal connection to the congressman, one victim’s voice was heard in the House. Who will speak for those without that access?


Louise A. Blum is a novelist and essayist living in Corning, NY. She is the author of the memoir, You’re Not From Around Here, Are You? A Lesbian in Small-Town America, and Amnesty, a novel. Her essay "Faith on the Front Lines," about her participation in the We Are Seneca Lake blockades, is forthcoming in the Spring 2017 issue of the Utne Reader. She writes about family, sexuality, activism and the environment and is currently working on a novel about the effects of fracking on one small town in rural Pennsylvania.

1 comment:

  1. Tom Reed knows full well the importance of Planned Parenthood to his constituents, but cynically chooses to ignore what he knows.