On Tuesday, Congress officially entered its 115th session, and wasting no time, on Thursday, House Speaker/unapologetic Donald Trump flip-flopper Paul Ryan announced that as part of the GOP’s maniacal plan to leave millions of disproportionately poor and sick Americans without healthcare (known colloquially as their plan to dismantle Obamacare), they also plan to defund Planned Parenthood on a federal level. All this from a man who, in November, dismissed women’s ability to access birth control as a “nitty gritty” detail of healthcare policy, and a detail Ryan admitted that he and his GOP cronies had yet to really even consider.
So, if women’s rights are, indeed, human rights, and human rights, women’s rights, then it’s time to identify attempts to defund Planned Parenthood as what they really are: attacks on human rights. Specifically, the human right to control over one’s body and reproductive freedom, which, like all human rights, shouldn’t be contingent on one’s socioeconomic status. If the GOP really is set on repealing the Affordable Care Act, through which 67 percent of insured women access free birth control, and defunding Planned Parenthood, through which 80 percent of its millions of patients access birth control, it’s time for them to start explaining how poor women are supposed to afford their human rights. Frankly, low-income women need access to contraception more than any other group in order to avoid pregnancies they can’t afford, and more so now than ever with the GOP poised to deal blows to the social safety net on top of all of this.
The irony of Republicans’ pathological, relentless quest to defund and antagonize Planned Parenthood is that, at least on some level, they’re on the same side: they’re both trying to prevent abortions from happening. And unlike the needless legal and financial obstacles Republican lawmakers are constantly crafting around abortion access, from TRAP laws and 20-week bans to waiting periods and expensive fetal burial requirements, the contraception Planned Parenthood offers low-income women is actually achieving that goal.
But don’t take my word for it, look at this one study that found the national rate of abortions dropped from 16 abortions for ever 1,000 women to 12 from the anti-choice Bush administration to the pro-choice Obama administration, which established the contraception mandate and defended Planned Parenthood, next to this study of how restrictions on abortion across different states have almost no effect on the rate at which they occur, and singularly serve to burden and shame women.
Republican lawmakers like Paul Ryan simply choose to overlook this fact because they can’t get past how Planned Parenthood offers abortion services, though not even with federal funding. As a refresher, the Hyde Amendment denies federal funding for poor women unable to afford abortion unless in cases of rape, prioritizing poor women’s human rights, objective science, and public health below the religious ideologies of some, and in the process, further stigmatizing the procedure. But sure, let’s go on devoting billions of taxpayer dollars to wars that actually kill born, living humans, while simultaneously portraying women making decisions about their bodies as murderers. That sounds about right.
And of course, it’s not even just the Hyde amendment: second-trimester and 20-week bans, waiting periods, and other laws that have become popular in recent years might not outright undo Roe v. Wade, but each in their own way nixes the landmark ruling’s guarantees, such as the right to an abortion until fetal viability, and the right to have an abortion without undue burden.
With the lethal combination of the Hyde amendment, the aforementioned restrictions on abortion, and, now, the dismantling of the ACA and defunding of Planned Parenthood, Republicans are sending a pretty clear message to low-income women across the nation that their days of using their genitalia for anything but baby-popping are done. After all, with access to neither contraception nor abortion, what else are poor women, many of whom are probably high school or college students, to do?
The surprisingly many women who voted for Trump justified their decisions by claiming that in terms of women’s rights, policies spoke louder than Trump’s call to action for wealthy men to “grab [women] by the pussy,” among many other grossly misogynistic comments.
But ultimately, whether or not our lawmakers accord women of all socioeconomic statuses access to autonomy over their bodies reflects whether they perceive women as human beings with rights or as insignificant victims of biology. And as of Thursday, Paul Ryan and other Republicans have made their perceptions of women crystal clear.