A provision within the state budget aims to hurt Planned Parenthood, a respected organization that has long provided valuable health care and advice for women, including family planning counseling that some would not get otherwise. But all the Republicans in the General Assembly focus on is their ideological opposition to the group’s role in providing abortions.
So, with a sneaky provision in the state budget, right-wing ideologues preoccupied with social issues such as Rep. Skip Stam of Apex have barred state funds for new or renewed contracts with groups that provide family planning or pregnancy prevention. That is, if those groups also provide abortions.
It’s true Planned Parenthood isn’t mentioned, but that’s what this bit of mischief is about. Two pregnancy-prevention programs dealing with teens would be affected, in Fayetteville and Wilmington. Planned Parenthood officials believe the loss of funding, about $135,000, will ultimately mean more teen pregnancies.
This action is outrageous on several counts. First, of course, it’s a bunch of heavy-handed legislators such as Stam interfering with women trying to deal with health issues. Second, as a budget provision it slipped into the final document without attention or debate. That is an abuse of the legislative process. It’s the use of the budget to attack an organization that does valuable work for women’s health care. Abortions represent only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services.
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Stam and his mates are inflicting their ideological beliefs without regard to the many people don’t agree with them. And they’re doing it despite the fact that the health of young women could be affected.
Frankly, Stam’s methods call to mind his advocacy of an anti-gay marriage amendment, something that created a political firestorm and then was rendered inoperative by the U.S. Supreme Court. Once again, Stam has led his colleagues into a fight that ultimately won’t help them.
And this action comes as some Republicans in Congress are threatening to shut down the federal government in about two weeks by not passing a spending bill unless that bill ends federal funding for Planned Parenthood, even though the federal funds can’t be used for abortions. Approximately 70 percent of the American people oppose a shutdown, and the Republican leadership knows it would be a political disaster for their party if they did it. But Washington has a few Stams of its own, and the push will likely take Congress to the brink of a shutdown.
While the abortion issue remains a significant one for some Republicans, the fact that polls show an overwhelming majority of people do not believe the dispute over abortion should shut down the government indicates public sentiment is not where the ultraconservatives would like it to be. Thus, a shutdown will carry harsh political consequences.
This is about a public health debate. No good will come of making it a purely political debate.