The war on Planned Parenthood

Sen. David Vitter reminds us that the anti-reproductive-rights movement has hardly gone fishin'.

Published March 4, 2009 4:59PM (EST)

Sen. David Vitter, who we assume has availed himself of contraception and/or STI screening, has risen from Crystal Lake to get all Friday XIII on Title X. His goal -- which is so '07  -- is to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood from the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill currently in the Senate. The vote on Amendment 601 -- if it comes to the floor at all -- could take place this afternoon.

This bill, it should be noted, is a bit of a sham to begin with. No federal funding may be used to support abortion services in the first place.  (Some states now pitch in.)

But Vitter's plaint, as paraphrased it, is that "while the money Planned Parenthood receives from Title X funds doesn't pay for abortions directly ... it still helps the abortion business." Mmm, except for the part where access to contraception er, hurts the abortion business, in a way we can all kind of agree on.

Further, no one should have to explain why it'd be a particularly bad moment to make the full range of Planned Parenthood services (including breast and cervical cancer screening) less accessible to low-income and uninsured patients. In fact, as Feministing notes, US News has reported that in these tough times, more and more women (and men) are visiting Planned Parenthood, many as their source of primary healthcare. Yet since the anti-reproductive rights movement sees Planned Parenthood as the veritable Death Star of abortion, it will always be a major, if symbolic, target.

Will the Vitter bill actually make it to the floor? And if so, how much do we really need to worry that this rather preposterous piece of work would pass? Well, if the bill does not come to a vote, it'd be because Republican lawmakers (especially with P.P. already rallying its troops) decided not to choose a losing fight. Sorry, Senator.

That said, this effort -- while a bit flailing in and of itself -- should serve as a reminder that the anti-reproductive rights movement has hardly gone fishin'. Their forces remain plenty active at the state level, with some scary successes. Just because we've got a fella in the White House who rescinds gag rules, strikes "conscience" clauses, re-ups health coverage for kids, and supports planned families (did I just type all that? Pinch me!) doesn't mean we can start mixing Obamatinis and call it a day.

So, in the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to call your senators, and let 'em know you're still watching.

UPDATE: Broadsheet hears that Sen. Jim DeMint has just filed an amendment (No. 649) to "strike provisions relating to the Medicaid drug rebate program and prevent the implementation of a funding earmark for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America." His goal: to remove from the appropriations bill a long-needed, much-discussed, technical -- and no-cost -- correction that would restore  the ability of pharmaceutical companies to offer nominally priced drugs to college and university health clinics and family planning health centers without penalty, just as they had done for decades before a change to the law went into effect in 2007. There is no federal funding in this provision. So while you're calling your lawmakers, perhaps ask Sen. DeMint exactly how it constitutes an "earmark."


By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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