Neocons’ Planned Parenthood Cuts Aborted

By Don Rollins

That certain whir you hear about now would be the body of Margaret Sanger spinning in its grave. Planned Parenthood, the nearly century-old organization dedicated to women’s health and reproductive rights that she willed into being, just barely escaped the 2011 federal budget battle with its funding intact. And that only as budgetary trade bait. Sanger lived to see Planned Parenthood become a force for the work she championed. She even hung in long enough to see the pill. Better that she’s not around right now.

By now you know the two most salient facts, not that they matter much to tea party Republicans and their more easily cowed colleagues. One, just 3% of Planned Parenthood’s budget is related to abortion services: the rest has to do with health care and birth control; and two, by law federal dollars may only be used toward abortive procedures related to rape, incest or documented threat to the mother’s life. These are the facts. But facts don’t feed the tea-party bulldog. Just ask John Boehner.

Smear campaign and all, Planned Parenthood’s federal funding is probably safe until next budget season, when Democratic mettle will almost certainly be tested again. Their near success on so pivotal a conservative issue as abortion will not be wasted on Republican strategists. As they correctly calculated, abortion is the issue with the moral and political appeal to galvanize the prized coalition between the tea party, religious right, fiscal conservatives and whatever’s left of the Republican center. It damned near worked in 2011. Nobody should be surprised next time around. History is instructive here. And not a little unnerving.

For those of us around at the time, we remember that it took sustained, grassroots, state-level feminist fomentation to get Roe passed; long before that case hit the Court docket abortion had been knocking around the states for years.

And that’s just what’s happening now. In reverse.

And then there’s liberal laxity. Mid- and late-Boomers like me more or less grew up in a time when abortion rights were just assumed.

Sure there was serious drive time between some patients and their closest provider — Tuscaloosa ain’t San Francisco — but Roe was to us a law of the land as surely as any other.

My generation came of age on the heels of remarkable, irreversible gains: civil rights; gender progress; gay rights; environmental awareness. Little wonder the more progressive among us adopted an “onward and upward” confidence that Boomers lose battles but win wars. And abortion was permanently in the win column.

The only time the prospect of losing Roe occurs to many of us is when a Supreme gets sick with a Republican in the White House.

But it’s time that liberals starting getting their heads around the possibility of a post-Roe America.

It’s probably too soon to go doomsday over what just happened to Planned Parenthood; but it’s definitely too late to act like it was about budget, not mission. We’ve always thought about winning. It may be time to start thinking about losing.

Postscript: I regularly use this space to ask readers to study up, monitor, work the system, act locally and donate. Maybe you’re already active for choice. If not, consider, or just run your own search. Soon.

Rev. Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Spartanburg, S.C. Email

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2011

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