The Attack On Planned Parenthood (or, Why Margaret Sanger Is Turning Over In Her Grave)

3783315259_20ee5eb7f7I’m sure you all know that the Republicans of the House of Representatives are making it their mission to wipe away nearly a century of progress of fighting for women’s reproductive freedom and accessibility to nationwide family planning centers. And that it’s all under the guise of, ahem, “fiscal restraint.” But what’s been really unnerving are the secretly recorded videotapes, by an organization called Live Action, of Planned Parenthood employees’ reactions to “pimp” and “prostitute” actors asking about STD and abortion information for underage sex workers. And it’s not because they’re really exposing anything new or scandalous. They’re just sensationalizing to make it seem like they are. Ever since the tapes were released, and heavily publicized, everyone has been all up in arms — either because they’ve fallen for Live Action’s misleading and heavily edited videos that claim to reveal that Planned Parenthood is actually a nefarious organization (because they disclosed young persons’ legal rights), or because they are sick and tired of the right wing media’s sheer disregard for reality.

But these videos aren’t anything new, Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Check points out. Lila Rose, the President of Live Action, “has been doing this for roughly forever, and it tends to go nowhere, because she uses deceptive editing and blatant lying, and there was no reason for [pro-choice activists] to believe it would be different this time.” Except it was different this time, because these videos ran alongside the most powerful governmental assault on Planned Parenthood that we’ve seen in years.

As I mentioned in a previous post, federal money was used for an infinitesimal number (191) of abortions in 2006, and only in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the mother was at risk. So abortion is really not the problem; it’s costing taxpayers a mere fraction of a penny each. And if the removal of Planned Parenthood proves successful, what will they do about the 1.85 million low-income women who depend on those clinics? “It just doesn’t come up. There’s not even a vague contingency plan,” Gail Collins writes. “There are tens of millions Americans who oppose abortion because of deeply held moral principles. But they’re attached to a political movement that sometimes seems to have come unmoored from any concern for life after birth.”

This is what will happen if the right-wing runs Planned Parenthood out of business: low-income American women will have to fall back on Medicaid. But, as KJ Dell’Antonia outlines, this is counter-productive — because every dollar of public funding that is spent on family planning services saves Medicaid $4.02 the next year. So why would Indiana Rep. Mike Pence (and the 154 colleagues that are backing him) endorse “an action that would effectively cost taxpayers some $1.2 billion?”

The thing is, it’s not about fiscal concerns. It’s about radical social and, what is considered to some, “moral”, views. It’s about a certain type of man who still, even today, deep down, needs to know that he has some control over women. And about women, who I wish I could say I understood, like Lila Rose. Who for some reason either don’t want the rights to their own body, or have never and will never need to go to a Planned Parenthood — and don’t want any other American woman to have the right to go either. Writes Collins:

“‘Planned Parenthood aids and abets the sexual abuse and prostitution of minors,’ announced Lila Rose, the beautiful anti-abortion activist who led the project. The right wing is currently chock-full of stunning women who want to end their gender’s right to control their own bodies. Homely middle-aged men are just going to have to find another sex to push around.”

If you just watch a Live Action video (preferably one that is unedited, like those that Media Mattershave fortunately unearthed), you’ll know that Rose’s statement is radical and untrue. Thus, the question is not “is Planned Parenthood really promoting underage prostitution?” it’s, “What the hell are we gaining from making people think that they are?”

Money, politics, religion, and the “sanctity of the family” might be the facade that radical anti-women’s rights (because this is beyond abortion now) people hide behind, or naively believe in — but really, it’s about the same old things. Control. Power. Subjugation. Gloria Steinem wrote about Margaret Sanger in a 1998 Time’s 100 Most Important People Of The Century article. What she wrote 13 years ago holds just as much weight in the political sphere today.

“One can imagine Sanger’s response to the current anti-choice lobby and congressional leadership that opposes abortion, sex education in schools, and federally funded contraceptive programs that would make abortion less necessary…As in her day, the question seems to be less about what gets decided than who has the power to make the decision.”

And since the decisionmakers simply reply: “What is more fiscally responsible than denying any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America?” (Rep. Mike Pence), then, as Irin Carmon puts it, “How can you debate someone who exists in an alternate version of reality?”

Steinem wrote about Sanger, “She taught us, first, to look at the world as if women mattered.”

It seems so simple. So decades later, why can’t we?