Who Wants Family Planning Assistance – Politicians, Or Families?


The anti-choice movement, like
much of the far right these days, has a way of casting their opponents
as vicious interlopers with a dark and inhuman vision for America. Family
Research Council President Tony Perkins’s commentary
on the Medicaid family planning
expansion provision is a fine example. He leads his reader to something,
in his view, frightening but necessary: "a rare, but candid glimpse
into the mind of a liberal." And this is what we find there: 

Children are viewed as things to be avoided or aborted, so they don’t
consume our limited resources, rather than blessings to conceive and
care for as the bridge to the future.

The argument between the pro-choice
and anti-choice movements is not about family size – it’s not about
whether large families are better for our economy than small families,
as Perkins claims. Whether or not you agree with that dubious assumption – more
children equal more workers, he argues – the freedom to have a large
family will always be protected, regardless of who controls Congress.
The real question here is: Who wants family planning resources, politicians
or low-income American women? Perkins claims that it’s the former,
and his implication is really quite stunning: that by making contraception
and abortion available to women, the government is taking away Americans’
right to have children. Besides the claim, above, that liberals are
anti-children, Perkins crafts a cute turn of phrase in his conclusion:

What America’s
families need is not reform that will require their first born (or from
Ms. Pelosi’s perspective, prevent their first born), but real economic
reform that will secure not only their own future, but their children’s.

By now, Pelosi and her cohorts
are practically kidnappers. So does Perkins’ claim have any validity?
Does government support of family planning pressure women to do things
they don’t want to do with their fertility? Would the stimulus money
have brainwashed us until we were a childless nation?

An intimate portrait of one
culturally conservative, low-income community in America seems to suggest
otherwise. A month ago, The New York Times reported that Dominican women and teenagers
in the Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan, feeling that they cannot go to
a local clinic for social or legal reasons, obtain misoprostol, an ulcer
drug, illegally from neighborhood pharmacies. The drug sometimes, but
not always, brings on an abortion and can cause the uterus to rupture.

    "Researchers studying
    the phenomenon cite several factors that lead Dominican and other immigrant
    women to experiment with abortifacients: mistrust of the health-care
    system, fear of surgery, worry about deportation, concern about clinic
    protesters, cost and shame," reported the Times.

Off-label use of prescription
drugs is not the only way these women "experiment"; the surveys
cited "found reports of women mixing malted beverages with aspirin,
salt or nutmeg; throwing themselves down stairs or having people punch
them in the stomach; and drinking teas of avocado leaf, pine wood, oak
bark and mamon fruit peel."

Women do not have abortions
because the opportunity is there – they have them regardless. While
Tony Perkins rails against liberal child-haters, women desperate for
abortions are literally throwing themselves down the stairs. In Perkins’
ideal America, we could look forward to even more of this.

But the Times‘ report
reminds us of something else: money is not the only thing that family-planning
organizations need in order to help women. They also need to think about
how they’re reaching out to women who, for various reasons, don’t
consider these organizations an option when seeking abortion, and don’t
always seek them out before this point.

In the meantime, Mr. Perkins
and the Family Research Council: in denying women the rights they clearly
want, regardless of culture, faith, or income level, you are the political
bullies, you are the dangerous special-interest group.

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