Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Richard Mellon Scaife on GOP Attack on Planned Parenthood: "Dead Wrong"

Another follow-up posting: this follows up on another appeal to educate ourselves that I posted several days ago.  I'm referring to my posting calling on readers to look at the moral implications of the current attack on Planned Parenthood from a broader perspective than that provided by the single issue of abortion on which too many pro-lifers are monomaniacally focused. 

As I've been noting in my commentary about the attack on Planned Parenthood (and, in particular, in my responses to comments on the two postings to which I've just linked), one of the mind-boggling things many pro-lifers appear to be missing as they call for a withdrawal of federal funds from this organization is that this action will in all likelihood increase rather than diminish the number of abortions that take place in the U.S.  It will in all likelihood increase abortions by removing essential medical services from many poor women for whom abortion is a desperate choice dictated by economic privation.  

And it will in all likelihood increase abortions by blocking the access of economically struggling women and young folks to the much-needed contraceptive services provided by Planned Parenthood.  Because that point seems so obvious to me, and yet seems to be completely off the radar screen of pro-lifers calling for an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood, I'm fascinated to read that even a leading conservative media tycoon like Richard Mellon Scaife is now calling the Republican attack on Planned Parenthood "dead wrong," when some 90% of its medical services are designed precisely to prevent the unwanted pregnancies that end in abortion.

I have to admit, I find it pretty exasperating when ideologues of the religious right, both Catholic and other, try to argue--in the face of reason and of abundant evidence to the contrary--that wider access to contraception increases the likelihood of abortions and STDs.  The right-wing Catholic group in Ireland, Iona Institute, whose funding sources (from the American religious and political right?) are exceptionally murky and have never been revealed, has sought to press that argument recently (h/t Clerical Whispers). 

Pope Benedict sought to float a version of this same argument on his visit to Africa in 2009.  And when he floated this argument, large numbers of media and medical commentators rightly pushed back against the dangerous (and false) implication that making contraception widely available helps spread the HIV virus.  It is totally irresponsible--it is downright cruel, I think--to disseminate this kind of disinformation, solely because one has moral objections to the use of contraceptives.

If those moral objections are legitimate and persuasive, they can stand on their own feet rhetorical feet.  They do not need lies to make them more compelling.  It is irrational to claim that making contraceptives more widely available will increase abortions, when data demonstrate that a large percentage of abortions occur precisely because women who did not intend to become pregnant think they cannot afford to have a child, or when young people who have become sexually active lacked access to contraceptives or were discouraged from using them.

It is not merely irrational and inconsistent to claim that one's objective is to diminish abortions while one calls for more and more blocks in the process by which people can obtain birth control: it is downright anti-life rather than pro-life to take this path.  The pro-life movement does itself no favors at all by attacking groups like Planned Parenthood.

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