"Big Abortion" and the GOP's Bogus Budget Battle
Back in early February, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan presented the Republican leadership's plan to cut $35 billion from the remainder of the fiscal year 2011 budget. As it turns out, that dollar figure is roughly the same one John Boehner, Harry Reid and President Obama have closing in on for days. Of course, the Republican crusade to shut down the federal government long ago stopped being about cutting spending, but instead about curbing the EPA, funding school vouchers for DC and, more than anything else, what Rep. Mike Pence called "Battling Big Abortion."
As the New York Times reported, "The two sides appeared to be only a few billion dollars apart on the level of spending to be approved for the balance of this year, a relatively small gap in a $3.5 trillion budget." On Thursday, a frustrated Harry Reid summed up the real Republican roadblock to doing a deal:
"We've been close on the cuts for days. The only things -- I repeat, the only things -- holding up an agreement are two of their so-called social issues: women's health and clean air."
Which is exactly right. Among the GOP demands being advanced by Speak Boehner is preventing the District of Columbia from using locally generated taxes to provide financial help to poor women for abortions. (Federal funding is already banned.) Republicans also want to reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy to prohibit payments for abortion providers overseas. Most important, Republicans won't budge on ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood, instead funneling the roughly $360 million to state health departments.
On Wednesday, Boehner's former right-hand man Mike Pence (R-IN) told a Tea Party audience, "if liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and force a government shutdown instead of accepting a modest down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say, 'Shut it down.'" But last week, Pence, one of the leaders of the Party of Big Business, Big Oil, Big Finance and Big Insurance, explained what the looming shutdown was really about.
In his National Review screed titled, "Battling Big Abortion," the darling of social conservatives charged:
If the Pence Amendment becomes law, thousands of women's health centers, clinics, and hospitals will still provide assistance to low-income families and women. The Pence Amendment would simply deny any and all federal funding to Planned Parenthood...
Advocates for the abortion industry have sought to portray efforts to defund Planned Parenthood as a "War on Women," but the issue is big business, and that business is abortion. This legislative battle is about Big Abortion vs. American taxpayers...
And Big Abortion routinely puts profits over women's health and safety.
Absent, of course, from Pence's assault on Planned Parenthood were the numbers that debunked his fraudulent charges. As the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus explained in February, Pence's amendment zeroed out $317 million in funding for Title X, a program signed into law in 1970 by Richard Nixon, who proclaimed that "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition."
Title X clinics serve more than 5 million women annually, the vast majority of them low-income.
The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that Title X helps prevent nearly 1 million unintended pregnancies annually. The institute says these pregnancies would otherwise result in 433,000 unintended births and 406,000 abortions.
The inevitable result of eliminating Title X funding would not only be more abortions - it would also be higher bills for taxpayers footing Medicaid and welfare costs for poor children. Guttmacher found that every public dollar invested in family planning care saves $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures for pregnant women and their babies during the first year of care. Imagine the lifetime savings.
And then there is the other "important work" that Pence cited: 2.2 million Pap smears, 2.3 million breast exams, nearly 6 million tests for sexually transmitted infections.
Nevertheless, by early March anti-abortion Republican House members announced they would vote against any spending bill that didn't terminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Would-be GOP presidential candidates including Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee quickly jumped on the bandwagon.
But facing the looming government shutdown and the prospect of Republican blame for it, some GOP hardliners including Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have told the party's leadership to drop the policy riders targeting women's reproductive rights. While Michele Bachmann of all people fretted, "I think that we should have a clean bill that makes sure that the paychecks get to the troops on time," Toomey urged the GOP to "move on, because there are other, bigger battles that we are fighting."
Sadly for the American people in general and women in particular, those pleas are falling on deaf ears. For Mike Pence and the other posing deficit hawks of the Republican Party, the only battle that matters is his battle against "Big Abortion."