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Republicans Still Don’t Know the Laws Surrounding Planned Parenthood

Another day, another Republican lawmaker harping on about all the billions and trillions of federal funding Planned Parenthood funnels directly toward “slaughtering babies.”

Everything about this assertion is wholly fictional, but since the extreme, anti-abortion wing of the party is unlikely to ever be convinced that the termination of a pregnancy and removal of fetal tissue isn’t murder, Planned Parenthood and many of its supporters devote most of their efforts to trying, unsuccessfully, to educate Republican lawmakers about the law of the land.

At a Tuesday town hall, GOP Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan took the stage to claim the majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions, and that federal funding would directly pay for this. Dishonest, misleading statements are pretty run of the mill in American politics, but it’s rare you’ll hear anything so blatantly, provably false except when it comes to Republicans and reproductive rights.

From Refinery29:

“At a town hall in his home state, the Michigan Republican said the ‘majority of work’ Planned Parenthood does is abortions.

‘The bottom line is,’ he said, ‘there is no reason we pay for an abortion entity to carry on their main function, and that being abortion.’

Many people in the crowd started shouting as he spoke, shaking their heads ‘no.’ One woman stood up and yelled as she stormed out, ‘This is not true. This is a lie that he’s saying about Planned Parenthood.'”

You’d think after all these years, after all this debate, after all this screaming of the facts through megaphones, lawmakers would care enough to learn the laws of our nation before getting behind the podium to speak on an issue that weighs so heavily on the lives of millions. But then, of course, you’d also think that in the 21st century a woman having the right to make a choice about her body without state interference would be noncontroversial, and that’s nowhere near happening.

In either case, if Planned Parenthood had a nickel for every time it had to explain to Republicans that federal funding, by law, cannot go toward abortion services, if it had a dime for every whimsically creative lie Republicans spew about them — they’d hardly need federal funding at all.

For starters, abortions account for roughly 3 percent of the organization’s services, which predominantly include breast exams, pap smears, STI testing, and sexual health education and birth control.

That’s not to say abortion is anything at all to be ashamed of — like any of the aforementioned services, it’s just another health care item that allows women to take care of themselves and own their bodies. The fact that this is politicized, the fact that Planned Parenthood feels compelled to frequently distance itself from abortion, is a sad commentary on the national dialogue around women’s rights.

And as for the organization using federal funding to, in Walberg’s words, “carry on their ‘main function’,” as of 1976, the Hyde amendment has barred federal funding from paying for abortion with few exceptions. And what great work that’s been doing for women’s health, with the United States’ maternal mortality rates skyrocketing above those of all other industrialized nations.

The Hyde amendment may exist, and it may be the law of the land. But that doesn’t justify denying low-income women the means to control their bodies — not to mention sparking a public health crisis — to not offend the minority of Americans who still think female bodily autonomy is unconscionable. Anyone who thinks the termination of a pregnancy, but not wars that kill born, living humans by the thousands, should receive no federal funding, really ought to rethink their priorities a little bit.

In either case, it’s getting exhausting to keep having to explain all of this to Republicans, who would rather go on portraying Planned Parenthood as an unstoppable, demonic beast of an organization. They’d rather continue building up the image of Planned Parenthood as an unstoppable “baby killer” than acknowledge the many laws that they, themselves, have imposed on the organization prevent it from doing just about everything they accuse it of.

Ultimately, when it comes to the classic, hotly partisan issue of to fund, or not to fund, conservative abortion opponents, with their raw disdain for the facts, are their own worst enemies. Without funding to provide sex education and contraception, unintended pregnancy rates, and with them, abortion rates, sore — this isn’t just some left-wing, liberal talking point: Consult with any study or data from counties where Planned Parenthood has been defunded.

And restrict abortion all you like, but it’s only going to make abortions — which will, FYI, continue to happen, and in great plenty if you defund family planning organizations — more expensive, inconvenient, and outright dangerous for women, not prevent them. But don’t expect abortion opponents to concern themselves with this reality, a reality of women going bankrupt, getting injured, even dying due to abortion restrictions. If they can’t even listen to the facts, why would they trouble themselves to listen to women’s voices?

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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