The Republicans’ Unholy Grail
The relentless Republican drive to destroy Planned Parenthood, the organization that has been protecting women’s health and reproductive rights for 100 years, is a swirling mass of illogical contradictions. Start with the basic fact that anyone who claims to be opposed to abortion should enthusiastically embrace an organization that makes contraception freely available to prevent the unwanted pregnancies that cause women to seek abortions. It’s just the beginning of an even darker Republican plot to limit life’s possibilities for every woman in America.
As with most of the threats coming out of Washington these days under total Republican control, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is one of the moving forces behind it. Ryan is already boasting that destroying Planned Parenthood will be a juicy side benefit of repealing Obamacare, which provides more than 20 million Americans with affordable health care that was previously out of reach for them. Never mind that Republicans have no idea how to replace health coverage for those 20 million people or for the 400,000 women nationally and 50,000 in Wisconsin who depend upon Planned Parenthood and Medicaid for basic health services.
In the coming debate over Republican evisceration of the highly successful, century-old public health organization, you should hear a lot about Planned Parenthood’s life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings and detection and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. But people also need to stand up and say loud and clear that protecting women’s access to safe, legal abortions and contraception are among the most important, legitimate health issues in any woman’s life. Every woman knows that’s true.
That’s why it’s shocking Republicans have so demonized abortion that not a single female Wisconsin Republican legislator has the political courage to defend a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own decisions regarding childbirth. That includes state Sen. Alberta Darling, who once served on the board of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
Everyone certainly has the right to his or her own personal religious beliefs regarding abortion. Freedom of religion is one of America’s founding principles. That’s exactly why no politician has the right to impose his own religious beliefs upon everyone else by law. Here’s the other tricky part about writing any religion’s teachings into law: There are religious teachings and then there is what practitioners of a religion really do.
When I was growing up, it was easy to recognize Catholic families. That’s because many of them had an ungodly number of children, sometimes six or nine or even more. That’s no longer the case. The teachings of the Catholic Church certainly haven’t changed, but the practices of Catholics clearly have. According to Gallup, 82% of American Catholics now approve of contraception and family planning for the sake of their own sanity, financial and emotional resources. The Catholic Church and other religions opposing abortion no longer control the private family decisions of their members. The supreme irony is that church leaders who can’t get their own congregations to follow their archaic, authoritarian rules now want Republicans to pass unconstitutional laws forcing all of us to obey them.
Anti-Abortion Laws Don’t Stop Abortions
But the most important reason Republicans shouldn’t pass laws outlawing abortion and destroying family planning really has nothing to do with either religious freedom or the Constitution. The reason is that laws against abortion don’t stop abortions; they just stop safe and legal abortions.
Any American who remembers the bad old days before Roe v. Wade, when abortions weren’t legally available, knows that abortions still went on, but mostly under extremely unsanitary, unsafe conditions for all but the very wealthy. The daughters of those with means would disappear for a couple of months before returning to their hometowns safe and sound, but abortions could be much more treacherous for anyone with fewer resources.
They had little choice but to risk outlaw, back-alley operations. If they were lucky, they might actually get an idealistic, professionally trained doctor. If they weren’t, the experience could be barbaric, and many adolescents were so desperate they attempted to perform their own clumsy, ignorant, do-it-yourself medical procedures with coat hangers and other sharp objects.
Republicans want to return to that horrific, unenlightened age. Gutting Planned Parenthood of $400 million in Medicaid funding to provide basic health services to poor women is just the beginning. Republicans in Wisconsin and other states continue reducing access to abortion—their latest cruel twist proposing banning abortions after 12 weeks, which can be before medical screenings detect serious and even catastrophic birth defects. Republicans brazenly lie about concern for women’s health while removing exceptions from their bans allowing abortions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.
Finally, the Unholy Grail for anti-abortion Republicans like Ryan would be President Donald Trump’s appointment of an anti-abortion majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to put an end to the past four decades of safe, legal abortions once and for all.