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Congress versus Planned Parenthood: Game on?

February 18, 2011 |  6:51 pm

To tweak a line of President Ronald Reagan's, "There they go again."

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted to eliminate $317 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood, not a nickel of which can or is spent on abortions, in spite of some of the political points that are scored by inferring that.

Republicans argued, as they have before, that putting so much as a nickel of federal money in Planned Parenthood -- which uses the money to provide services like reproductive health tests and checkups, pelvic and breast exams, infertility and safe-sex counseling to millions of women who can't afford them -- could actually be subsidizing abortions, because it's money that Planned Parenthood doesn't have to raise on its own to spend on those services.

One Republican-sponsored bill would even deny the standard federal tax credits to any private insurance plan that pays for abortions, the real motivation pretty obviously being to try to force those plans to drop coverage for a legal medical procedure. There are lots more bills along these lines, which purport to be about cutting the budget but that really, like the magician's trick of misdirection, are about cutting back women's reproductive rights.

So, here I go again:

Ten years ago, after George W. Bush was sworn in as president, he almost instantly rolled back abortion-rights polices and appointments. I suggested in a column that, for President Bush's first Presidents Day in the White House, Americans who disagreed with the president but agree with his wife, Laura (who is for abortion rights, as are Nancy Reagan, Betty Ford and Condoleezza Rice) should let the president know, and put their money behind their message.

Here was my thought: You know how, if you make a gift to a cause in someone's name, that organization will send the designated honoree a card noting, "A gift has been made in your name to xxx"? I envisioned sacks of such cards arriving at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue reading something like  "President Bush, a gift of $__ has been made in your name to Planned Parenthood."

And, as House Speaker John A. Boehner is fond of saying, "So be it." Or so it was. That suggestion wound up making Bush, indirectly and inadvertently, one of the biggest fundraisers in Planned Parenthood history, to the tune of about $1 million. Somebody revived my idea a couple of years ago, when it was learned that then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin had said in an Alaska gubernatorial debate that even if her own daughter were a rape victim, she -– not the daughter, but Palin herself -– would "choose life." That too made Palin an indirect benefactor of Planned Parenthood.

Now we have several members of Congress, foremost among them Mike Pence of Indiana and Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, as major movers behind the legislation throttling women's reproductive rights in the name of budget cuts.

And once again, I must think that it would deliver no end of displeasure to them were they to find out that thousands of contributions were being sent to Planned Parenthood in their names -- that they, in fact, had become fundraisers for an organization they evidently despise.

Gentlemen, the checks, and the notes, may be in the mail.

And for you budget-conscious taxpayers: The Republican majority decided to let the Army go ahead and keep spending $7 million a year to sponsor a NASCAR driver.


Patt Morrison's recent columns

Chipping away abortion rights

Women's rights: Let's abort the bills proposed by Christopher H. Smith, Joe Pitts and Mike Pence

-- Patt Morrison

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