Planned Parenthood attack has nothing to do with women’s health

Austin American-Statesman, October 25, 2015

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Truth and reason have no place in the holy war that our anti-abortion state leaders are fighting.

Now that Texas has officially alerted Planned Parenthood of their intention to yank Medicaid funding, that decision admittedly based on doctored-up videos taken by stealth anti-abortion activists, it’s time to get honest about what’s really going on here and in backward states all over the country. Make no mistake, it’s not about protecting the unborn, as they say. It’s about the oppression of women, pure and simple.

In 1971, Austin lawyer Sarah Weddington argued Roe v. Wade to the U.S. Supreme Court at age 26.

There was a time in the very recent past when even birth control was illegal in this country, not to mention abortion. Then in 1971 and ’72 a bright, articulate, charismatic 26-year-old lawyer from Austin named Sarah Weddington argued the case of Roe v. Wade before the nine male justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. She argued her case on the basis of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution — a document that the far-right extremists talk a lot about, but apparently have never read. Her arguments were so convincing and authentic that she opened the eyes of the justices, and in January 1973 abortion became legal in this country.

As my policy professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, said many times, Americans are not comfortable with fundamental change. The problem with abortion is that it’s either legal, or it’s not. You can’t incrementally get to that. At some point in time, it had to be made legal because women were dying from infection from unsafe induced abortions using hatpins or hangers or whatever else they could find.

Texas and other states have progressively hacked away at that ruling by passing laws that restrict abortion including the despicable requirement that a woman look at the fetus on ultrasound as a doctor points to the features and listen to the heartbeat. That’s called state-endorsed torture. Perhaps we should waterboard women who have accidental pregnancies, maybe stone them to death.

The anti-abortion jihadists that are our state leaders (all male, all Republican) line up to profess their intent to protect the unborn, code for oppressing women. Gov. Greg Abbott states that yanking Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood “provides greater access to safe health care for women” — the opposite is true — “while protecting…the unborn.”

Evangelist Sen. Ted Cruz was right when he said, “I’m proud of Texas for leading the way in affirming the sanctity of life.” Yep, Texas is leading the way to oppress women, and damn proud of it.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the most rabid of all, declared in an Oct. 19 Fox News interview that Planned Parenthood pretends to care about women’s health, “but we know that they’re only in the business to profit from killing babies and selling body parts.”

That’s simply untrue. Nowhere near. But truth and reason have no place in the holy war that our anti-abortion state leaders are fighting.

I understand these men are pandering to their Tea Party base, but abortion rates in Texas have steadily fallen to about half what they were in 1991 and have been lower than the national incidence all along. Why not leave well enough alone?

In 32 years of neonatal nursing, I’ve referred countless moms to Planned Parenthood for birth control because I know they’ll get wonderful care. Many of the 35 centers throughout Texas are in rural and medically underserved areas, which confirms the organization’s intention to increase access to care. More than 175,000 Texans each year count on Planned Parenthood for a variety of crucial services such as family planning, birth control, well-woman exams as well as screening for breast and cervical cancer, urinary tract infection, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Abortion represents less than five percent of the services the organization offers in Texas, and that needed service is entirely privately funded.

Around three in 10 American women by age 45 will have obtained an abortion. Accidental pregnancies happen. Dire and different life circumstances surround each abortion.

State laws and policies that restrict a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions have no place in America in 2015. Isn’t there something better state leaders can do with their time other than oppress women? Like maybe work on education or transportation or access to health care?

Toni Inglis, MSN, RN CNS (retired), FAAN, a lifelong Austin resident, is a retired neonatal intensive care nurse and editor of NursingNews. She also wrote a monthly opinion column for the Austin American-Statesman editorial pages for 10 years.