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In Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn Doesn’t Speak for Me

January 21, 2013

Well, partly, that’s because she’s not my Representative. She does come from my home state of Tennessee, though, and has reintroduced a federal bill – the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act – to strip Title X family planning funding from any clinic that also provides abortions. Effectively, that’s more of the same “defund Planned Parenthood!” nonsense Republicans have been attempting for the past several years.

Here’s the thing: anti-abortion politicians and groups have been spreading the idea for years that there is some problem with Planned Parenthood getting Title X money, like maybe there’s some secret conspiracy in which the funds really are just paying for abortions all over the place. They do their best to imply that this money is somehow actually paying for abortions through vague insinuations.

Why bother trying to take the money for contraception away, unless you either:
a) think it’s being misused,
b) have a grudge against Planned Parenthood because they do provide abortions and can’t stand their getting any money whatsoever no matter how legit or unrelated the reason,
c) think other infrastructure is available and more appropriate to deliver family planning services, at the capacity we have now via PP, and/or
d) don’t support actually helping poor people with the means to limit their families as desired?

If it’s A, I say, prove it. I see the allegation of a vague concern of misuse all the time at places like LifeNews, but I’ve never seen a story with actual proof or even specific allegations of misconduct. Surely there are anti-women accountants or disgruntled (but honest) former employees who could provide verifiable description of the supposed money diversion from family planning to abortion. It’s much easier to scare up the base with vague threats of something that is already prohibited by federal law – and so presumably wouldn’t need complete defunding to address.

If it’s B, frankly, that’s a personal problem. That’s putting your personal politics and/or theology over the healthcare needs of actual, real people in order to score political points. Oh, wait, that sounds like Republicans these days. That’s actually pretty much what Blackburn said, that “America deserves better than abortion. America shouldn’t celebrate abortion and our taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood.” Uh, you know how you prevent abortion providers from doing hardly any abortions? You fund family planning work, as fully and widely as you possibly can.

If it’s C, show us. Show how the funds are being better used, for as many or more patients, with fewer supposed problems. It hasn’t worked out that way in Memphis, TN, or New Jersey, or Texas. Are there any states in which stripping Title X funding from the established clinic infrastructure (PP, the biggest provider of such services in the nation) has actually meant the same number of patients could get the same amount of services?

If it’s D, you’re an asshole. I understand that some folks don’t think anybody anywhere should get any help from the government (unless they’re subsidized, tax-breaked corporations, of course). I don’t personally think that’s any way to run a compassionate civil society, especially one with such a longstanding history of institutionalized discrimination and oppression. But if that’s your argument, make it – don’t hide it behind vague allegations of an abortion-money bogeyman under the clinic bed. Just come out and say, “I hate abortion so much I’m willing to probably cause more of them, because I hate helping poor women even more.”

The bottom line is generally that politicians like Blackburn can’t or won’t separate either their personal feelings about whether other people should have abortions or their political need to rile up the anti-abortion base from the public health need for family planning services. I won’t be holding my breath for them to argue for defunding the military because it also sometimes blows up innocent children.

If you’re a citizen of her district, contact Rep. Blackburn and let her know she doesn’t speak for you, either. Inexplicably, TN Rep Diane Black has also reintroduced basically the same bill, so contact her if you live in her district. For everybody else, relevant bills are HR 61 (Blackburn) and HR 217 (Black)find your own state’s Representatives here (by state, or search by your zip) and contact them with your opposition.


Added: There is an article in the Nashville, TN newspaper today that addresses point A. It notes that some lawsuits have been brought against Planned Parenthood by a religious, anti-abortion organization in various places for alleged misuse of funds. The only specifics from actual cases provided in the article are that “The Iowa suit accused was dismissed in district court.” According to news reports, the suit was dismissed because it “did not identify ‘a single example’ of a specific fraudulent claim.” The article also implies through its construction that PP was barred from the Texas Women’s Health Program in connection with a suit on overbilling. It’s actually the case that state legislation has barred any abortion provider from receiving family planning funds.


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