When did "women's health" become reduced to just contraception and abortion? So much so, that all knees bend at the altar of Planned Parenthood, which works hard to ensure that this remains the case.
Karen Handel most recently made this point to me, and she's well-suited to do so. This past year, she was at the center of a firestorm over Susan G. Komen for the Cure cutting its ties with Planned Parenthood as part of a grant overhaul. (The former Komen executive has since authored a book, "Planned Bullyhood," whose title well captures what happened.) Komen's singular purpose is to find a cure for breast cancer. Period. Or it was, until Planned Parenthood incited a public firestorm, essentially shaming Komen into rescinding its rejection of the controversial organization.
A bill to defund Planned Parenthood has just been filed in the House of Representatives. Similar legislation is filed every year, but this year's is a little different.
Consider its sponsor, for one thing. Rep. Diane Black is a nurse from Tennessee with extensive experience in, and a deep concern for, health care. Black stresses that "dollars are not being taken away from good family planning services" if the bill were to become law. Women's health, including contraceptive drugs, would not be under assault. Money would still be made available -- but to groups whose lifeblood isn't abortion.
Last year, Planned Parenthood received $542 million in taxpayer support and performed 333,964 abortions. Dissension in the ranks has been an underreported story. Planned Parenthood of South Central New York announced late last year that it was separating from the national organization due to a requirement that all affiliates perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood's increased focus on abortion comes at a time when its other health services are dwindling. According to an analysis by the Susan B. Anthony List based on Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report, the group's cancer screening and prevention services have dropped 29 percent since 2009, with even contraception services decreasing 12 percent.
"Even people who are pro-abortion can agree that we shouldn't be using taxpayer dollars" to fund the country's largest abortion provider, Black insists. But it's tough to get the word out, especially with Planned Parenthood flexing its enormous P.R. muscles to quash dissent.
The common ground we stand on is that we actually do care about women's health, and most of us are not "pro-abortion." A Marist poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus in December found eight in 10 Americans favoring significant restrictions on abortion. There's a reason Planned Parenthood doesn't use the word a lot in its public literature.
Former Komen exec Handel suggests some serious congressional oversight is in order. Too bad the White House is in the pocket of Planned Parenthood, because an administration that has made anti-bullying a cause, headed by a president who talked a lot about "transparency" when he was in the Senate, could be quite the natural leader here. Instead, a congressional hearing -- not exactly a firing squad -- would likely be characterized as an attack on a bastion of women's health. But isn't it long past time? Isn't our financial situation miserable enough? Aren't we alarmed at statistics such as 41 percent of pregnancies in New York City ending in abortion?
We've been lousy stewards of taxpayer money, of life, of liberty -- just ask the small businessmen fighting the government's abortion-coverage insurance mandate; consider the religious schools and hospitals and other religiously affiliated services whose futures are uncertain because of the regulation, crafted by the same radical crowd that vilified Komen.
We need to face facts. And an honest look at Planned Parenthood -- what it is and what it's doing -- shouldn't be a fundraising action item for political factions but a moral responsibility. The organization has shaped our public debates about women and children for much longer than the life of Roe v. Wade. That's not healthy. Informed citizens who want something better for our money and civic life should be insisting on it.
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