With mere hours until a federal government (and in some ways more critical, a D.C. government) shutdown occurs, Democrats are ramping up rhetoric about the main source of contention: Federal funds for abortion.
Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are insisting that the House GOP refuses to budge on the budget because of funding to Planned Parenthood. But as Reid pointed out earlier today on the Senate floor, the organization doesn’t use federal funding for its abortion services because of longstanding legislation which bans it from doing so.
Last year Congress approved a $10 million increase in funding to Title X, the family planning line item, bringing the total to $327 million. Obama’s budget this year kept that number the same, making it one of a few social safety net programs that didn’t see cuts. That’s it: $327 million for family planning. Quite the dent in the deficit, huh?
None of that $327 million would go toward abortion care, due to the Hyde Amendment. But Title X funds clinics like Planned Parenthood that offer reproductive health care, cancer screenings, and contraception to low-income women. (It should also be noted that only 3 percent of PP’s services are abortion related, in any case.)
The GOP defends the elimination of Title X by insisting that discretionary spending needs to be reduced in order to fix the deficit. But they would be eliminating access to family planning and cancer screenings—not abortion—for millions of low-income women, many of whom are women of color, and it’s not clear at all how removing health care options from poor women would cut costs.
According to a report by NARAL, 20 percent of Title X clients are black, and 28 percent are Latino. Medicaid can possibly fill in the gaps on reproductive health care, but considering Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal, that may not last for long, either.
At a press conference this afternoon, the Democratic caucus vowed that it would not move on this issue, and accused House Republicans of holding government workers hostage for not trading away women’s rights. Democrats seem to be choosing to frame the budget battle over Planned Parenthood because, despite what Bill O’Reilly would have you believe, it affects the lives of women in vital ways.