The process of mainstreaming
insane right wing ideas has been well documented. Start with
an idea generated by fringe crazies in their fringe crazy spaces.
It gets picked up by other conservative media sources that become increasingly
more respectable, places that use good grammar and multi-syllabic words
and have editorial staff that get invited to the right cocktail parties. Soon the bogus idea gets on Fox TV and the Wall Street Journal, and then it’s
picked up on MSNBC and CNN and the New York Times and becomes part of
the mainstream wisdom. This is how racist code words like "states’
rights" and "law and order" become part of the mainstream dialogue,
and how the myth of the liberal media was invented. Anti-choice
ideas move into the mainstream like this all the time. Think about
abstinence-only education. It’s an idea cooked up by half-witted religious
fanatics who would ultimately like to ban contraception, but through this process of refining
and mainstreaming the idea, they turned it into a cash cow worth billions.
One idea generated by the right
wing fringe that hasn’t found traction in the mainstream is the claim that at there’s
such thing as an "abortion industry." This belief is one of the more laughable fantasies the organized anti-choice movement has — that abortion providers, especially non-profits like Planned
Parenthood, get into the business because it’s
uniquely profitable. Never mind that abortions are one of the
cheaper outpatient surgeries out there, in no small part because most
doctors who provide them are ideologically committed to women’s rights
and try to keep the prices reasonable. Never mind that most abortion
providers struggle to keep their patients from coming back for another
abortion by providing counseling on contraception. Never mind
that Planned Parenthood does more to reduce the abortion rate by providing
education and contraception than anything anti-choicers do. Never mind that Planned Parenthood
is a non-profit. Never mind that there’s a lot more money
in delivering babies than providing abortions. Never mind that
there are other fields of medicine to go into that not only pay better
but come without the strings attached of stigma and abuse from anti-choice
They believe that abortion providers are captains of a profitable industry because they have
to believe it. Without that myth, anti-choicers would have to
face up to the fact that they are interfering with the medical care
of ordinary people, torturing medical professionals who dedicate their lives to
helping others, and adding pain and misery to the lives of people
who already have enough of their plates. In other words, they’d
have to face up to the fact that they’re objectively nasty people. So they make up stories about their victims to justify their behavior.
Still, the fantasy of the "abortion
industry" has long been a quaint rationalization used by only the ugliest misogynists,
and not something to worry about on a policy level. Until
recently, when the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Planned Parenthood rebranding itself as a provider of services and goods to middle class communities. To reasonable people, the story
is classic liberal do-gooderism. According to Medical News Today:
Officials from a Massachusetts
affiliate said they will use profits from an express center in a "trendy
retail plaza catering to college students" to help to open a similar
clinic in a low-income, largely Latino community, the Journal reports…..
According to the Journal,
the strategy is increasing revenue for some clinics, which make a profit
of about $22 on each pack of birth control pills sold to clients who
can afford to pay the full price. The profit is used to subsidize other
activities, such as providing health care for low-income people or sex
education for teenagers, in addition to political activities.
The strategy is not about making money for its own sake, but about increasing the revenue
pouring into lower income communities. In addition, women in middle class communities are often unable to pay
full price for their reproductive health care, and could use the structured
pricing offered by Planned Parenthood. Middle class people, especially
women, often go through periods of being broke where a discount on reproductive
health services could make a world of difference for getting them back
on their feet. Anyone else remember Ramen noodles in your college
But of course, the agents who
take crazy right wing ideas, put some lipstick on those pigs and present
them to the public saw this as an opportunity to popularize the idea
that Planned Parenthood has too much money. Kathryn Jean Lopez
of the National Review argued that Planned Parenthood has a "surplus"
and should be punished for it by being cut off from federal funds. She’s being dishonest, of
course, because that’s mandatory in anti-choice rants, no matter how
grammatically sound and laden with reasonable-sounding vocabulary.
There’s no such thing as a "surplus" if there’s still people
to educate and low income communities to tend to, which there are.
In fact, the reason for the rebranding is precisely to guard against
financial losses, to redirect money from middle class communities into
services for the underprivileged. Moreover, she’s buying into
the larger lie about Planned Parenthood being "pro-abortion," when
they do more than any other organization in the country to prevent abortion,
using methods that are effective.
But still, it’s frightening.
This is how crazy right wing ideas get mainstreamed. Lopez is
taking a self-evidently stupid belief (that Planned Parenthood, a non-profit,
is part of a capitalist cabal to strike it rich with fetal tissue) and
finessed it into what’s still a turd, but a shiny one that could
convince a few people to pass it off as gold. Claiming that Planned
Parenthood has too much money is a way of claiming that low income women
should be cut off from their reproductive care, but it doesn’t suggest that at first blush.
We’re already seeing more
conservative states redirecting funds that used to pay for services
to lower income women go to crisis pregnancy centers that specialize
in wasting your time and refusing to give you any real services.
If this lie got more hearings, it could do real damage.