Planned Parenthood gets no federal money for abortion, a procedure which constitutes some 3 percent of their work. None! (Neither, by the way, does the United Nations Population Fund, which Republicans also want to defund. In fact, it has been banned from funding abortions since its founding in the 1970s, and by several bouts of US legislation since.)
So why does the media keep claiming the looming government shutdown is about “abortion”? The New York Times is typical: “Abortion dispute complicates budget negotiations.” “Mr. Reid said that Republicans had “drawn a line in the sand” on issues of abortion financing and changes to the Clean Air Act.” The NPR top-of-the-hour news briefs this morning referred to “abortion funding” as the big obstacle. Even Talking Points Memo has fallen into the habit: “Abortion, spending cuts hamper deal to avoid government shutdown.“ And so has the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, who writes, confusingly, “So though the fight over Planned Parenthood might be about abortion, Planned Parenthood itself isn’t about abortion.” How can the fight be about abortion, when, as Klein acknowledges, no federal monies are spent on abortions at Planned Parenthood? The fight is about Planned Parenthood. Period.
In adopting this lazy shorthand, media outlets tacitly accept the Republican frame: PP’s main business is performing abortions, and the federal government—you, the taxpayer!—pays for them. None of this is true. Ninety-seven percent of PP’s business is providing birth control, basic gynecological care, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and the like. Its abortion services are not funded with taxpayer dollars. Thanks to the Hyde amendment, there has been virtually no federal funding of abortion since 1976.
Next time, so-called liberal media, try these handy phrases: “Birth control blocks budget agreement.” “Government shut down looms over Pap smears” “Republicans to women: can’t afford cancer screening? Tough luck.”