Earlier this week I posted an excerpt from a funny diatribe by Jeffrey T. Kuhner of the Edmund Burke Institute, published in the Washington Times, that linked contraception with abortion. Kuhner ranted that almost every major religion and civilizations have always opposed contraception, homosexuality, adultery -- oh, pretty much anything having to do with sex unless it's a husband and wife making babies. A Guttmacher Institute staffer very kindly got in touch soon after to let me know that, um, that's not really true; in fact that most Americans, including church-going Catholics and evangelicals, regularly use birth control. Intellectually, Kuhner and his kin are direct descendants of Anthony Comstock, the late-nineteenth-century figure whose "chastity laws" fought contraception, pornography, and all kinds of whoredom (i.e., any attempt to sever the direct link between sex, marriage, and birth).
But while I'm way too easily amused by out-of-control screeds, the underlying reality isn't funny at all. Just as was true before Roe v. Wade, well-off American women can get abortions if they need to, but poor or rural women are out of luck. As most of us know by now, access to abortion has been restricted dramatically, eroding Roe to nearly nothing. This summer, Guttmacher reported that state restrictions on abortion were enacted at a record pace this year. Remapping Debate has put those restrictions into an amazing interactive chart that makes them easy to visualize and track. Meanwhile, Women's E-News reports on other ongoing state by state battles against Planned Parenthood, in Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, and North Carolina -- and on the fact that New Jersey's Planned Parenthood, which had to close clinics after they lost all state funding, is collecting data to show the deleterious effects on women's lives.
PP grew directly from Margaret Sanger's efforts to save women's lives through birth control, back when using, discussing, selling, or buying it was at best scandalous and at worst illegal. For many women today, the annual or occasional gynecological exam is their gateway to medical care--which makes PP a primary health care provider for many. According to PP, its annual offerings include:
more than 850,000 breast exams, contraception to nearly 2.5 million patients, more than three million tests and treatments for STDs, including HIV, and nearly 50,000 colposcopies.
Attacking Planned Parenthood state by state is, unfortunately, likely to be more effective than the full-frontal federal attack -- especially for those women who desperately need a source of birth control and basic health care.