The recent House passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) has led to a torrent of liberal hand-wringing. Most of it is meme-induced scaremongering about the AHCA classifying rape as a pre-existing condition. It doesn’t.
What the AHCA does do, however, is deprive Planned Parenthood of federal funds for one full year. This would fulfill one of President Trump’s key campaign promises. More importantly, it would come close to the culmination of a 30-year-long battle by the conservative movement to keep taxpayer money out of the hands of family planning providers.
In response, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, is making the case that the AHCA’s Planned Parenthood defunding provision is unconstitutional.
Women have a constitutionally-protected right to an abortion, but nowhere in Roe v. Wade or any of its legal progeny is there anything approaching a mandate on taxpayer dollars being used to provide access to that right. Schneiderman uses what is called the “undue burden” standard in regard to Medicaid reimbursements to suggest that, absent the funds, it becomes so burdensome for many women that it rises to a constitutional violation. Except that is an argument most judges would laugh out of court.
Liberals, increasingly reduced to non-starter whinging as their much-touted incremental progress is reduced by whole planks of the GOP wish-list, are simply drowning in the dogma of a faith unprepared to deal with the realities of life under Trump and unified GOP governance.
Conservatives, meanwhile, are using their power to ram through whatever they can dream up. If the current Congress decides to defund Planned Parenthood, there’s very little anyone can do about it (though pro-lifers probably don’t appreciate the ban’s expiration date).
Regardless of one’s position on abortion, Planned Parenthood has served a genuinely laudable purpose for quite some time. Their provision of free and affordable health services to the poor have probably made all the difference to untold numbers of people, but it’s an organization which has, in many ways, outlived its usefulness. As soon as the country transitions to true universal health coverage, Planned Parenthood won’t have much of a reason to stick around.
The clawing back of Planned Parenthood’s power will certainly give conservatives heart. Most of the GOP caucus, the party’s activist base, and the right-wing literati view Planned Parenthood with a seething and visceral aversion.
Of course, for most liberals and Democrats, Planned Parenthood’s logo is a standard of pride. But that standard is obscuring their vision. Let’s face it, Planned Parenthood is a political lightning rod that’s increasingly becoming an impediment to any sort of progress.
Planned Parenthood is such a darling of the media that the non-profit absolutely thrives on talk of being defunded–their donations have increased more than 40 times their usual amount since Trump was elected. More to the point, Planned Parenthood’s entire business model relies on poor women being unable to access affordable health care anywhere else. Their bread and butter is the backwards state of the U.S. healthcare system. That’s hardly progressive and it’s infuriating to conservatives when the needy are used as a shield for abortionist grandstanding.
Abortion is also big business. Planned Parenthood is an exemplary charity in terms of their accountability and transparency. But while performing above the mean is commendable, their provision of health services to the indigent is quite lucrative for those providing such services. The non-profit’s twelve national corporate officers raked in an average of $398,514 in 2016. And Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s CEO, makes just shy of $1 million per year. Such sums are clear and obvious fodder for revulsion. Helping lower-income women get abortions is literally making liberals rich. This is the political equivalent of blood across the conservative eyeball.
Planned Parenthood’s defenders aren’t fooling anybody. Spare us all the tired and tortured logic that says taxpayer dollars are kept separate from donations and only the latter fund abortions while the former are used to provide pap smears and check-ups. No one believes this is anything more than an accounting trick and technicality. It’s establishment sophistry the pro-choice lobby worked hard for, and it’s something anti-choice advocates see right through.
So, let’s all jettison the premature gloating and straw-grasping outrage and think seriously about the future. Here’s the compromise: Planned Parenthood stops receiving federal funds, operates solely on donations, and, by virtue of budget constraints, limits itself to providing abortions.
Meanwhile, the country as a whole adopts a healthcare system of genuine universal coverage funded through tax revenue–cutting health insurance companies out of the equation entirely–thereby solving the problem of poor folks lacking medical care. Such a program is commonly referred to as “single-payer.” In fact, we’ve already got something like it in the United States that works wonders: Medicare. (Which is why many proponents push for single-payer under the tag line, “Medicare for All.”)
After the shambling mess of Obamacare and the even messier reality of #RepealAndReplace, conservatives are beginning to make the case for single-payer. Even one of Trump’s close confidantes is pushing the idea. Prominent conservative voices like Charles Krauthammer are treating the idea of single-payer like a fate resigned. And, when it comes to cost, single-payer is the most fiscally conservative option by far.
There’s that old saying about an idea whose time has come. It can’t be defeated. So, it’s worth wondering out loud why the pro-choice movement, including Planned Parenthood, is acting like the forces of reaction and pushing back against single-payer. For an organization that talks such a good game about providing medical access, it’s a curious stance.
If liberals are serious about what they claim to believe, and aren’t simply interested in the pink-hatted dogma of how they’ve been brought up, they’ll let Planned Parenthood be a martyr for the cause of single-payer. What’s really progressive about a 100-year-old organization that’s so self-interested it snipes at and opposes universal health care anyway?
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.