It’s not surprising that no questions were asked about Planned Parenthood at Thursday’s Republican debate in Iowa. That’s not a topic most Americans have at the top of their list of issues impacting the country.
It’s also not surprising that one candidate brought it up, anyway. That was Chris Christie, who laughably mentioned Planned Parenthood when asked to name one thing the federal government could do differently to balance its budget.
Never mind that Planned Parenthood receives an infinitesimal piece of the annual federal budget, and that none of it goes toward abortions. Republicans love to score political points by trashing an organization that provides health services to women, including many of the nation’s poorest.
This week, however, critics lost a big piece of their supposed ammunition. On Monday, a Harris County (Texas) grand jury indicted two members of a group that made hidden-camera videos suggesting Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue for profit. More importantly, Harris County prosecutor Devon Anderson – a Republican – said that the grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.
Those videos, of course, triggered a wave of outrage and legislation from Republican lawmakers across the country.
In Washington, U.S. House Republicans passed a bill – for the eighth time – that would defund Planned Parenthood. The president has vowed to veto any such bill.
In North Carolina, lawmakers passed a bill that banned the sale of fetal tissue from abortions – something that already was illegal – and forbid women to donate fetal tissue for research after an abortion procedure. The bill, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, also barred giving state funds for family planning services to groups that perform abortions.
The author of that bill, Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County, said the Texas Planned Parenthood videos inspired him to introduce the measure.
But now that a Texas grand jury, along with several other investigations, have found Planned Parenthood engaged in no illegal activity, North Carolina is left with a law that hurts research and makes it more difficult for low-income women to get important services such as cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted infections and, importantly, contraceptive care and education.
We understand that while abortion is legal in the United States, many Americans believe it is wrong. But the best way to decrease abortions is not to attack an organization that provides women and teens education and contraceptives. The best way to slow abortions is to slow unplanned pregnancies.
An example: In Colorado, abortions dropped a stunning 40 percent in five years thanks to an initiative that offered women a free intrauterine device (or often just a small rod implanted in their upper arm) that prevented pregnancy.
North Carolina has no such initiatives, because Republican lawmakers still believe that offering contraceptives gives teens permission to have sex. Instead, they fall for spliced, misleading attack videos, which give them political permission to target an organization and the women it serves.