Morella: My party is wrong on Title X, Planned Parenthood

Republican stance against women's health issues is bad policy, bad politics

March 23, 2011|By Connie Morella

From my 16 years of experience serving as a Republican congresswoman, I recognize the fact that our country is facing major economic difficulties. I also believe that today's times necessitate pragmatic approaches and sound policy that will help us fix our economy and create jobs — not partisan political tactics that defy common sense and are a threat to Americans' well-being.

I cannot stand with my party leadership in their dual attempts to undermine women's health by eliminating the Title X national family planning program and prohibiting federal funding for Planned Parenthood. These efforts are bad policy and bad politics. Not only are they based on shortsighted political posturing, but they would also have a devastating impact on women's health.

Impressively, Planned Parenthood provides preventive health care to 3 million mostly low-income people annually. For many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only health care provider they see. And this extreme proposal would not only directly impact the millions of women Planned Parenthood sees, but it would undermine the country's public health safety net.

The reality of the proposal to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding is that it would cut off millions of women from receiving preventive health care, such as lifesaving cancer screenings, breast exams, birth control, and STD testing and treatment (including HIV testing). That's where Planned Parenthood's federal funding goes.

While House leadership says that its dangerous proposals are about lowering our deficit and reducing abortion, its actions are in fact a detriment to both goals.

Let me be clear, federal law already prohibits federal funding from going toward abortion. So, the notion that this extreme proposal is about preventing federal dollars from funding abortion is bogus.

In addition, family planning programs like Title X and what Planned Parenthood offers effectively reduce instances of abortion by providing contraception and education to millions of women. Each year, Planned Parenthood's services prevent more than 600,000 unintended pregnancies.

The proposal to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds will have zero impact on the budget, since it is not a budget cut. It simply prohibits a health care provider from receiving federal dollars and participating in federal health programs.

More broadly, family planning services have been shown to be a good investment. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that for every dollar invested in family planning, taxpayers save nearly $4. Put another way, eliminating the national family planning program will result in higher costs, not lower costs.

Attacking Planned Parenthood is not just bad policy, its bad politics. It's a well-known political axiom that independent women voters sway elections. Well, independent women voters also oppose attacks on Planned Parenthood and on efforts to undermine access to women's health.

They understand that these extreme proposals have nothing to do with the deficit and will result in more women losing access to preventive health care.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month found that 53 percent of Americans — as well as 56 percent of women overall and 60 percent of women ages 18 to 49 — believe it is "mostly or totally unacceptable" to "eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and preventive health services."

The proposal to defund Planned Parenthood may help with the social conservative base, but it comes at great expense with key women voters and young voters.

Shortsightedness is what caused our country's economic mess in the first place. Let's not repeat this mistake by choosing ideological victories over good policy that also makes political sense for the long haul.

If my fellow Republicans want to be on the right side of women voters, they will reject the extreme proposal to defund Planned Parenthood and focus on the important task of fixing the economy.

Connie Morella is a former congresswoman from Maryland's 8th district. She served as the U.S. ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Ms. Morella currently serves as an Ambassador in Residence for American University's Women in Politics Institute.

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