If you've been keeping score at home, you'll have noticed that not one but two states, including a red state with a paleoconservative governor, have in the past several days exonerated Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing in the so-called secret-video sting that has conservatives calling on Congress to defund the non-profit organization. The appropriate response to this news is, "Of course! Because Planned Parenthood is absolutely not selling fetus parts via some sort of grisly underground marketplace." For many, especially on the right, no amount of fact-checking will ever be enough. But for the sake of the public record, let's review those exonerating reports again here.
Last week, Massachusetts' Attorney General Maura Healey became the latest in what's sure to be a long list of state attorneys general to conclude the same thing. Specifically, Healy concluded,
"Over the past week, my office has conducted a thorough review and found that Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts’ health care centers are fully compliant with state and federal laws regarding the disposition of fetal tissue. Although donation of fetal tissue is permissible under state and federal law, PPLM does not have a tissue donation program. There is no evidence that PPLM is involved in any way in the buying or selling of tissue. As such, our review is complete."
Sure, Massachusetts is a leftward-leaning state, but Indiana is very much not. Back on July 16, Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., launched an investigation of Planned Parenthood following the release of what was obviously a doctored and misleading video. The probe focused on facilities in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville, and this past week the Indiana Department of Health reported it was "unable to find any non-compliance with state regulations. Therefore, no deficiencies were cited."
Because of course.
But it's good to know that small government conservatives -- conservatives who routinely frown upon wasteful government spending -- have successfully prompted frivolous investigations in 12 states, including deeply red ones, all based on obviously fraudulent videos. All in all, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana are in the process of or have concluded completely unnecessary investigations. Meanwhile, at the federal level, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is conducting its own inquest.
Perhaps, if it were being ideologically consistent, Fox News Channel might conduct an investigation to determine the combined price tag for all of these baseless inquiries. Given how Planned Parenthood clearly isn't doing what these videos claim, the GOP might as well launch investigations into Keyboard Cat to determine whether it's really playing that annoying song. That's exactly how farcical this has become.
Indeed, the rapid descent of modern conservatism into a netherworld of conspiracy theories and hocus-pocus gimmickry is nearly complete. This is a political demographic that includes people who think the California drought is God's punishment for abortion and that same-sex marriage created Hurricane Sandy, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that too many conservatives completely accept the veracity of an explicitly falsified video. (Meanwhile, the 97 percent scientific consensus on the climate crisis is a hoax.) This willingness to believe in ridiculousness while rejecting objective reality is growing increasingly self-satirical.
Objective reality includes the following facts:
• Planned Parenthood is not selling fetus parts for profit or otherwise.
• Only three percent of Planned Parenthood's activities involve abortions.
• Per the Hyde Amendment, no federal funds can be used for abortions. And there's no evidence that Planned Parenthood has done so.
• Consequently, de-funding Planned Parenthood would put into jeopardy its ability to save lives and, germane to this issue, prevent abortions. The Washington Post editorial board concluded:
"No federal money is used by Planned Parenthood to provide abortions except in some rare exceptions. So cutting off government funds, mostly through Medicaid and grants, would only hurt the thousands of people, most of them low-income women, who each day depend upon Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other health services. Given that many of the clinics are in medically underserved areas, it’s a myth, as Republicans claim, that other providers can fill the gap. Shutting down clinics would make it harder for many women to obtain birth control — and the last thing either side of the abortion debate should want is an increase in unwanted pregnancies that result in more abortions."
• Along those lines, in 2013 and 2014, 3,577,348 patients were provided with birth control services by Planned Parenthood. That’s upwards of 3.5 million potential abortions prevented. What happens when these services disappear? Maybe the press should quiz anti-choice Republicans about this one.
• Additionally, Planned Parenthood would lose the ability to conduct breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings -- hundreds of thousands per year. It'd also lose the ability to perform thousands of vasectomies every year. How many unwanted pregnancies will result from the loss of this particular option?
• Journalist Nicholas Kristof reported that Planned Parenthood and other family planning facilities "prevent about one million unintended pregnancies a year, of which 345,000 would have ended in abortion." This according to the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute. Again, why do Republicans want to create circumstances that'd produce an additional million unintended pregnancies and a third-of-a-million abortions every year?
• If women who visit Planned Parenthood are forbidden from donating fetal tissue to biomedical labs, that tissue will be tossed in the waste bin. Republicans appear to prefer this option for some reason. Meanwhile, eliminating the legal tissue donation program would put a damper on research into preventing Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
• Here's a salient fact. When fetal tissue research was authorized by the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993, how many Republicans voted against that law? Exactly four. The other 41 Republicans voted "yea." This, among other things, highlights how sensible Republicans were in 1993 compared to the lunatics running the show today.
But, okay, I get it. It's much easier to lapse into a satisfying outrage coma over a stupid video than to accept the clear and incontrovertible reality that Planned Parenthood and similar organizations save lives and prevent abortions -- millions more lives saved than abortions performed. The Republican Party and the Tea Party conservatives who've commandeered it believe, and perhaps rightfully so, that its most active supporters are quite simply gullible knuckleheads who will gladly accept without question anything they're told, while also categorically rejecting anything that doesn't conform to the fantasies they've rubber-stamped.
This sting video, as well as its several sequels, are provably mendacious, and yet no one on the right seems to have any issue with wasting taxpayer money to find out for sure. Nor are they concerned about the serious repercussions of shutting down Planned Parenthood. If they were truly "pro-life," they should be.