Apr 11, 2016
Over the last nine months, twelve states cut funding to Planned Parenthood, the main provider of health services for lower income women.
Of course, women with money aren’t impacted by the cuts – just like they’ve never been impacted by laws that restrict abortion. Their money opens the door to whatever medical services they need.
But for a large number of working class women, the cuts to Planned Parenthood were cruelly felt as a direct attack.
Clinics were forced to shut, denying women access to basic medical services. The harm inflicted was enormous and immediate.
To see the human cost, look at Texas, where the attacks on Planned Parenthood go back five years. Already, in the first two years after the cuts, only half as many women were served by Planned Parenthood – 170,000 instead of 350,000.
In other words, 180,000 women were denied medical services, starting with abortion. They lost access to a wide range of other services, including contraceptives, mammograms and other cancer screening, treatment for various diseases that afflict women, as well as basic preventive care for high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
In the first year after funding was cut in Texas, half the women who sought an abortion had become pregnant because they were not able to get the birth control they had been using.
And what about all the other women? How many could have been screened for breast cancer or cervical cancer before it was too late, but were not? How many others would have been warned about their diabetes or blood pressure problem? How many others would not have died? No one knows, because those women were among the 180,000 who had no place to go.
Texas, need it be said, is the home base of Ted Cruz, who cheered along all these cuts. Ohio, which passed even more severe cuts, was headed by John Kasich, who bragged about signing the legislation. And Florida, with the open support of Marco Rubio, passed equally sweeping cuts. In fact, nine of the 12 states that cut funding to Planned Parenthood were headed by Republican governors.
The Republican Party and its other candidates may denounce Trump for his statement about “punishing women.” But that’s exactly what the Republican Party has done. Pushing to limit access to abortion and birth control, it punished women. Cynically working to build up an electoral base among right-wing religious fundamentalists by attacking women’s right to control their own bodies, Republicans condemned unnumbered working women to harsher lives.
But what about the Democrats? Surely, they defended women’s rights? Surely no, they haven’t done. Three of those states that cut funding – New Hampshire, Louisiana and Montana – were headed by Democrats.
In fact, the very first restriction on women’s access to abortion came in 1976, when the Democrats controlled the Senate by an almost two to one margin – 60 to 37 – and the House by more than two to one – 291 to 144. That was the federal Hyde Amendment, which denied the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortion. Not only was Hyde the first to restrict women’s right to choose, it has continued to be re-authorized by every Congress, every president ever since, Republican or Democrat. For working class women, the Hyde Amendment is surely the most destructive. By cutting public money for abortion, it denies real access for a very large number of women.
Working women face particular problems. But they share this with the rest of the working class: neither of the two parties defend them. Neither of the two parties represent their interests.
Either open enemy or false friend, that’s what working women confront in the two big parties that dominate political life today.