First they came for abortion, but I didn’t care because abortion was for sluts. Then they came for sex ed, but I didn’t care because the kids can learn all they need to know at home. Then they came for birth control, but… Wait a minute! Birth control? They’re coming for birth control? I need that! For nearly a decade prochoicers have been warning that abortion foes were gearing up to go after contraception, but the possibility of losing birth control was too far-out for most people to take seriously. And you know prochoicers—they’re always crying wolf. Well, wake up, sleepyheads, it’s happening.
After the Senate rejected a House attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, Republican Representative Cliff Stearns, chair of the energy and commerce subcommittee, demanded that PP turn over reams of documents going back twenty years. The official purpose was to see if PP’s abortion services, which cannot receive federal funds, are sufficiently segregated from its contraceptive and other health services, which do receive federal dollars. Since Republicans believe this separation is impossible—money is fungible, and all that, except when it goes to a church for supposedly nonsectarian social services—who knows what Stearns and Co. will decide counts as evidence?
Meanwhile, House Republicans continue their attempts to ban federal support for PP, this time through a draft bill on agency funding that would also completely defund Title X, the government’s main family-planning program. Title X, which provides family planning services to more than 5 million mostly low-income people each year, has nothing to do with abortion, which kind of proves that the “fungibility” issue is just a fig leaf. (Bill supporter and Tea Party Caucus member Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican who opposes raising taxes on the wealthy—did I mention that he’s the twenty-fourth-richest member of Congress?—claims that zeroing out birth control funds for poor women is necessary to lower the deficit. Because what could be cheaper than babies?)
As is so often the case in the war on abortion, the most damaging action is in the states. GOP-led governments have voted to cut or eliminate PP funding in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, Texas and New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie, hero of Republicans who also happen to be sane, eliminated the state’s $7.5 million budget for family planning. And yes, Texas, where Governor Rick “N-wordhead” Perry slashed family planning funds from $111.5 million to $37.9 million. Meanwhile, since you can always find money for the things you really want, he boosted aid to antichoice crisis pregnancy centers to $8.3 million.
Federal judges have forced North Carolina, Kansas and Indiana to drop their plans, and the federal government is picking up the tab in New Hampshire. Poor women in New Jersey, Wisconsin and Texas are out of luck. You can see which way the tides are running. Note the geographic diversity: defunding contraception isn’t just a Bible Belt specialty anymore.