Thursday, March 05, 2009

Article Of The Week

Jodi Jacobson, Acting Senior Political Editor for RH Reality Check, is described on that organization's website as having "degrees in economics and environmental science and many years of practical and professional experience in public health."

And a heck of a blogger. In a post of March 3 entitled "Hypocrisy Has No Term Limit: Vitter Attacks Title X and Planned Parenthood in Omnibus," Jacobson criticizes the opponents of the Title X Family Planning Program, which according to the Office of Population Affairs of the Office of Public Health and Science of the Department of Human Affairs

was enacted in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.

Hypocrite though Vitter might be, Jacobson properly professes little concern about his sex life, but is justifiably exorcised about the amendment, which would prohibit Title X funding for Planned Parenthood, which the Louisiana Senator has introduced to the omnibus spending bill. Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of Title X services, but such funds are prohibited by law to be used in programs in which abortion is a method of family planning. Meanwhile, family planning services, according to a Guttmacher Institute report released in 2/09, prevent 1.94 million unintended pregnancies each year, pregnancies that would otherwise result in 860,000 unintended births, 810,000 abortions and 270,000 miscarriages.

So why would a (politically) conservative, pro-life Republican oppose funding a program which provides health care services for pregnant women and contraception to reduce unintended pregnancies and, therefore, abortion? Jacobson argues that the far right is committed to "denying women (and men) access to basic contraceptive methods, to services for sexually transmitted disease prevention, detection and cure and... ironically, to healthy pregnancy services."

She may be too generous. Though violative of the law of parsimony/Occam's Razor, this is another possibility: Vitter and his allies may welcome (silently) an increase in the abortion rate. After divvying up individuals solidly in the pro-life or the pro-choice camp, there remain many Americans who are ambivalent about abortion rights. These people are likely to lean in the pro-choice direction, preferring individual freedom over government intervention, as long as the abortion rate appears relatively low; however, once it appears high, indignation rises, and the interest in maintaining a woman's right to choose is superceded by a concern over human life (or its potential).

Restricting the effectiveness of Planned Parenthood by denying it federal funding would reduce the access of men and women to contraceptive services, resulting in a rise in abortion and increasing support in the populace for restrictive abortion laws. And with priority under Title X given to low-income persons, more poor people especially would resort to abortion, hence fueling the resentment of the lower class that is central to right-wing philosophy. And a bonus: Title X, a government program, will have proven less effective- and the failure of the public sector generally delights a Republican Party whose raison d'etre is opposition to government.

This may seem overly Machiavellian but, as Jacobson points out, when a political party's ideas have brought the nation to the edge of economic collapse, diversion may be the best strategy.

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