Editorials

Lay off Planned Parenthood

Firefighters try to put out a fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, Wash., on Friday. The predawn fire heavily damaged the clinic in the college town.
Firefighters try to put out a fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, Wash., on Friday. The predawn fire heavily damaged the clinic in the college town. KREM.com

Last week, as Republicans in Congress prepared to resume their assault on the reproductive rights of women, someone cased a Washington state Planned Parenthood clinic and then, at 3:30 a.m., set it on fire.

Investigators say Friday’s attack on Planned Parenthood of Pullman was arson. A federal anti-terrorism task force has been brought in on the matter. No one was injured, but given the months of hysteria around an undercover video campaign that purported, questionably, to show Planned Parenthood illegally selling aborted fetal tissue, the violence was no surprise.

Now Congress is back from its break, with fresh efforts to cut off Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, even if it means wasting everyone’s time with another attempted government shutdown or forcing millions of women to look elsewhere for health care and birth control.

The conservatives who are leading this charge need to ask themselves who, exactly, is being served here. Half of the adults in this country, and a majority of women, are pro-choice – they want to preserve a woman’s right to an abortion. And even if that weren’t the case, the issue is increasingly a red herring: Abortion rates have dropped to a 30-year low.

Planned Parenthood already is prohibited by law from using public money for abortions. Most of the nonprofit’s federal support either comes from Medicaid or from Title X money that, among other things, allows clinics to distribute cheap or free contraception.

And who gets that free birth control? A lot of people who would fall through the cracks if a known quantity like Planned Parenthood weren’t there to catch them. Street people with sexually transmitted diseases. Mentally ill rape victims. Women who are undocumented or poor. Eighty percent of the group’s patients live on 150 percent of the federal poverty level or below.

This fight benefits no one. On the other hand, the hysteria around it has already incited real violence and damage.

What the Republicans would do with those Planned Parenthood clients isn’t clear, exactly. There’s some talk of redirecting the nonprofit’s $500 million or so in federal funding to other community clinics, but the focus seems mainly to be on pro-life outlets that focus on talking pregnant women out of abortion, not checking them for breast cancer or STDs.

Other than a few Republican politicians playing to exceptionally conservative bases, this fight benefits no one. On the other hand, the hysteria around it has incited real violence and damage. That Washington clinic didn’t even perform abortions. The GOP should pull back before some unhinged person damages more than mere property.

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