Lange: Funding Planned Parenthood

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(HOST)  Commentator Willem Lange has been thinking about the many proposed program cuts in the Federal budget, and he thinks that some of them just don’t make sense.

(LANGE) One of the most impassioned debates in the current Congress concerns federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that for about 100 years has been providing counseling, contraceptive advice and devices, and since the Roe versus Wade decision, access to safe abortion procedures.  A determined majority in the House of Representatives, responding to religious and cultural conservatives in their constituencies, would like to see Planned Parenthood disappear.  At the very least, they would deny it any public funds because of the abortion issue.

Mother and I availed ourselves of Planned Parenthood more than 50 years ago.  Attending a counseling session was a requirement of the Episcopal Church, in which we were married.  We were impressed by the matter-of-fact way the counselor showed us how to schedule the arrival of our children.  It was in effect a plumbing lesson, one we’ve never forgotten.

With the current crimp in our nation’s financial fortunes, conservative politicians have a downhill pull in the cultural tug-of-war.  It’s easier than ever to justify chopping programs they disapprove of:  Title Ten Family Planning, Head Start, and Planned Parenthood.  But how can the economic argument make sense, when it’s clear that costs deferred now will result in greater costs later?  And there’s an inherent inconsistency in opposing abortion while supporting the manufacture and use of modern weapons that result in indiscriminate civilian deaths – among them, no doubt, those of unborn children.

Furthermore, the issue is more nuanced than it might appear; there are serious side effects.  According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood dispenses birth control that prevents about 600,000 pregnancies every year.  If it did not, it would quickly become obvious that Planned Parenthood actually prevents many thousands of abortions.  In addition, about 60% of young women who consult its clinics – there are ten in Vermont – have seen no other health care providers, because in the private health insurance market, they can’t afford to.  What’s to become of them?

Personally, I’ve always felt that ideological opposition to women’s reproductive rights is primarily the ominous residue of traditional patriarchy, under which a woman has few, if any rights to personal control of her body.  I believe abortion is always a tragedy, but not necessarily the worst option in every situation.  The decision is between a woman and her obstetrician.

The current argument against it claims to be economic.  That claim is fraudulent – unless those who make it are willing to consider seriously its long-term financial implications.  Our differences are essentially cultural and religious, and have no more place in the national debate than our last great social experiment.  That was Prohibition.  And how’d that work out?

This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.

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