For a group of people largely
committed to opposing legal abortion, House Republicans seem to show
surprising enthusiasm for keeping the abortion rate sky high.
After the anti-contraception debacles such as defunding the UNFPA, rewriting
HHS regulations to define contraception as abortion, and the battle
over emergency contraception at the FDA, you’d think that anti-choice
Republicans would have learned to practice discretion. But no,
John Boehner, House minority leader, has decided to attach anti-contraceptive
nuttery to an issue that’s getting a ton of coverage–the economic
stimulus package. He’s
been making the talk show circuit
protesting the economic stimulus because poor people will have sex
if they pass it.
That’s the implication, anyway.
In reality, Boehner is using contraception to titillate people about
the $300 billion in the budget of the stimulus package that will go
to states in a budget crisis, and a small percentage of that will shore
up Medicaid spending on contraception. In other words, poor people
are already doing it, and the stimulus package makes sure they don’t
suffer breaks in their contraception access that will lead directly
to unintended pregnancy, and, especially in this economy, to abortion.
Pelosi and, at
Richards have pointed
out the obvious: Medicaid-provided contraception does in fact stimulate
the economy. By not getting pregnant when they don’t want to
be, poorer women save money that they would most likely spend on abortion
and spend it instead on things like food or clothes, which also stimulate
the economy. But let’s face it; Boehner’s entire strategy
here is to titillate people about the sexual habits of their lower income
neighbors, perhaps stoke some jealously, and definitely stoke some anger
that can be used to shut down the stimulus package. Instead, Obama is
begging House Democrats just to take birth control out of the bill, because he wants it to pass without
a fight — even though the Congressional Budget Office has said that expanded
Medicaid spending will create jobs and save the government money in
the long run.
But while Republicans have
latched onto a sexy way to get onto the talk shows to protest the bill,
if it wasn’t family planning, it would just be something else. They’ve moved into the obstructionist zone, where every attempt by
Democrats to do anything positive has to be halted. And the reason
is that effective legislation passed by Democrats preserves Democratic
power. If voters get improved health care access, for instance,
they will likely continue to vote for Democrats in order to keep it.
What’s good for the people is bad for Republicans in this case, and
thus they’re choosing themselves over the public.
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It’s a sad commentary on
this country that Boehner’s strategy to kick up dust over this stimulus
package works. While a solid part of the country gets that money
spent on Medicaid-based contraception goes directly to preventing unplanned
pregnancy and probably doesn’t effect the amount of boot-knocking
going on, unfortunately another solid group of Americans gets no further
than thinking, "Some poor people are doing it on my dime!", and
therefore immediately goes into the obstruct-and-punish zone.
Racism absolutely inspires Boehner’s attempts. The
mainstream media face of your average Medicaid recipient is a black
face, even though the majority of Medicaid recipients are white.
Even by conservative standards,
which state that people receiving any kind of welfare should just get
a job and pay their own way, contraception coverage is fundamental.
Women struggling with unplanned pregnancy face serious obstacles when
looking for work, even in a healthy economy. Employers may not
formally discriminate, but one look at an expanding belly will usually
convince an employer to hire someone else they think won’t be taking
substantial time off in the future for maternity leave. Many,
if not most, women looking for work in this situation will choose to terminate an unintended pregnancy instead. What does this do for the economy? Abortion takes at least two days, and probably more, that could
be spent working or looking for work.
Serious times like ours demand
mature responses. So why on earth is Boehner acting like he’s
10 years old and he just found out what sex is? "Ew, this
package has sex cooties all over it!" shouldn’t be the response
of a congressman who wishes to be taken as anything but a major league
clown. Members of the public who fell for this stunt should also
be ashamed of themselves. Right now, we’re seeing millions of
people losing their jobs on what seems to be an hourly basis.
Not that there’s ever a good time to get bent out of shape because
your neighbors are doing it, but it’s especially silly and childish
to get into an anti-sex tizzy in a serious time like this.