To understand why Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the unabashed Progressive icon of our day, look to her response to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood. Following the series of incriminating videos of Planned Parenthood officials negotiating terms for fetal body parts, few Democrats were eager to come to the organization’s defense. They preferred to ignore the issue, attack the investigators, or speak in terms of government shutdowns and ideological budgeting. Not Warren.
She not only defends Planned Parenthood, but goes on the offensive against Republicans with all but the words “war on women.” Her speech on the subject has over 360,000 combined views from two YouTube videos, making it the third-most-popular video on the topic after Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richard’s official response (450,000 views), and the original Center for Medical Progress videos (15 videos on their channel have a combined 8.4 million views). The speech is rhetorically powerful and warrants a thoughtful response. Warren’s remarks are italicized throughout, my fisking follows.
I come to the Senate floor today to ask my Republican colleagues a question: Do you have any idea what year it is? Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s or 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?
Unfortunately for Warren, the three MD’s in the Senate—John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)—are all pro-life Republicans. Of course, Warren is not afraid to speak well of the past when it suits her argument, as when she spoke of the 1960s as a high point for the minimum wage. Her chronological snobbery apparently comes and goes with the issue.
Because I simply cannot believe that in the year 2015, the United States Senate would be spending its time trying to defund women’s healthcare centers.
This is deliberately misleading, suggesting that all women’s health care faces defunding. The proposed bill explicitly states: “All funds no longer available to Planned Parenthood will continue to be made available to other eligible entities to provide women’s health care services.”
Not only is Planned Parenthood the only organization facing defunding, but the defunding bill redirects all the money that was going to Planned Parenthood to other health-care centers. That means no diminution in overall funding for women’s health care.
You know, on second thought, maybe I shouldn’t have been that surprised. The Republicans have had a plan for years to strip away women’s rights to make choices over their own bodies.
Republicans promote all kinds of choice, including: school choice, health-care choice, and retirement planning choice. Even their opposition to Planned Parenthood is grounded, at least in part, in the fact that unborn children have no choice in whether they will have their organs harvested.
Surely Warren isn’t suggesting that the unborn child is merely an extension of the woman’s body? In the aforementioned 1890s, there was greater scientific uncertainty about the nature of the unborn child, as Ernst Haeckel was popularizing his drawings of human embryos that looked more like birds and fish than human beings. Now we can look into the womb with 3D ultrasound—or a Planned Parenthood lab dish—and see a unique human life. To imply that the fetus is part of the woman’s body is to say that a woman has two sets of DNA, four arms, four eyes, and, if carrying a male child, well, you know.
Just look at the recent facts. In 2013, Republicans threatened to shut down the government unless they could change the law to let employers deny women access to birth control.
First of all, employers can’t deny women access to birth control. It can be found, often without prescription, at any CVS, Walgreens, or even a cheap gas station vending machine, for a couple bucks.
But it’s true, Republicans did seek delayed implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate back in September of 2013, just as they sought to delay implementation of all parts of the ACA that hadn’t kicked in yet. The contraceptives mandate—which included drugs that some consider abortifacients—received special attention as a matter of conscience, as Republicans weren’t sure which way the Supreme Court was going to go with the Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor cases. Apparently the Supreme Court thought the Republican concerns were not only reasonable, but constitutionally required.
In March of this year, Republicans held up a non-controversial bipartisan bill to stop human trafficking. Why? Because they demanded new anti-abortion restrictions to cover private funding meant to help the victims of human trafficking.
Here Warren completely misrepresents what happened. It was the Democrats who held up Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)’s Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, until they eventually traded it for a vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch. They had no problem with the anti-abortion language in committee, but started an uproar when they “discovered” the language—on pages 4 and 5 of the bill—as it was coming up for a floor vote. The “new anti-abortion restrictions” were standard operating procedures in line with the Hyde Amendment when it first passed back in 1976.
And human trafficking? In addition to current concerns that Planned Parenthood is trafficking human body parts, Live Action released a series of videos of Planned Parenthood workers in seven clinics across the country offering to help a pimp procure abortions for his underage sex workers.
In June, House Republicans passed a budget eliminating funding for the Title X Family Planning Program, the only federal grant program that provides birth control, HIV tests, STD screenings, and other preventive services for poor and uninsured people.
About a quarter of Title X funding goes to Planned Parenthood. According to the House Appropriations Health and Human Services subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), the proposal included: “eliminating funding for HHS Title X Family Planning grants, maintaining full support for community health centers and boosting funding for lifesaving biomedical research.” Was it designed to limit funding to abortion providers? Yes. Was it designed to harm community health centers? No. What does family planning have to do with HIV and STDs?
Over the past few years, the Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act more than 50 times, including the portions that require insurers to cover contraception.
Any honest assessment of Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare admits the primary concern has been government overreach and incompetence. Contraceptives were comparatively low on the list of grievances.
And let’s be clear, it’s not just Congress. Over the past five years, Republican state legislators have passed nearly 300 new restrictions on abortion access. This year alone Republican state legislators have passed more than 50 new restrictions on women’s access to legal healthcare.
She probably got her statistics from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, and the numbers are fairly accurate. What she doesn’t mention, probably because it goes against her narrative of inevitable, Progressive enlightenment, is that most of these measures are widely supported by the American people, who’ve always opposed the broad elective-abortions-at-any-stage-of-pregnancy policy imposed by Roe and Doe.
So Mr. President—Madame President—let’s be really clear about something.
It’s good to know it’s not just Republicans who struggle to avoid micro-aggressions. Apparently a female senator, probably Shelley Moore-Capito (R-West Virginia), was sitting in as president at the time.
The Republican scheme to defund Planned Parenthood is not some sort of surprised response to some highly edited video.
Why should it be surprising that an industry whose natural byproduct is fetal remains should have no qualms about trying to profit from those remains? While it’s true the popular Center for Medical Progress videos are highly edited, the unedited videos are also available for viewing and aren’t any more exculpating.
Nope, the Republican vote to defund Planned Parenthood is just one more piece of a deliberate, methodical, orchestrated, right-wing attack on women’s rights. And I’m sick and tired of it. Women everywhere are sick and tired of it. The American people are sick and tired of it.
We’ll have to take her word on whether she is sick and tired of it. I’m sure some women everywhere are tired of it. But the 40 percent of American women who call themselves pro-life might not be, nor almost a third of the women in the Senate, including the bill’s sponsor, Joni Earnst (R-Iowa).
As for the American people, abortion support peaked in the early 1990s, and now millennials are more pro-life than any generation but for those over 65 years old.
Scheduling this vote during the week of a big Fox News presidential primary debate, days before candidates take trips to Iowa or New Hampshire, isn’t just some clever gimmick.
It’s true the issue got a lot of play in the GOP debates, but liberal commentators have welcomed a resurfacing of the “war on women” and have used many of Warren’s arguments in chastising the candidates as being as sexist as Donald Trump.
The truly pro-life Republicans were upset with the timing of the bill, having wanted the measure to be attached as an amendment to a “must pass” transportation bill. Proposed as a standalone measure, the bill stood little chance of garnering the 60 required votes to overcome a filibuster.
This is an all-out effort to build support to take away a women’s right to control her own body and access to medical care she may need.
“Need” is a strong word. If you distinguish abortion—“the purposeful destruction of the unborn child”—from “necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child,” then more than 1,000 experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynecology affirm that direct abortion is “not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.”
You know this affects all of us. Whatever your age, wherever you live, I guarantee that you know someone who has used Planned Parenthood health centers. No one may mention it at Thanksgiving dinner, or post it on Facebook for the whole world to know, but just look at the facts. One in five women in America is a Planned Parenthood patient at least once in her life. Every single year almost 2.7 million women, and men, show up for help at Planned Parenthood.
These numbers sound like they come from Planned Parenthood at a Glance, which can often be misleading. For one thing, the site says that one in five women has “visited” Planned Parenthood and does not go so far as to say that one in five become “patients.” It’s also unclear whether the 2.7 million showing up for help include repeat visits from the same person.
Why do so many people use Planned Parenthood? Because they’re nonprofit and they’re open.
These people apparently have incredibly low requirements for their healthcare provider.
More than half of Planned Parenthood centers are located in areas without ready access to healthcare. You know, women who can’t get appointments anywhere else go to Planned Parenthood for pap tests and cancer screening. Couples go to Planned Parenthood for STD treatments and pregnancy tests. Young people go to young people for birth control…
There are over 4,000 Medicare Certified Rural Health Clinics around the country. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide free or low-cost breast-and cervical-cancer screenings, state health departments provide free cancer screenings, and many community health clinics do, too. There are over 2,500 crisis pregnancy centers, compared to 700 Planned Parenthood affiliates. If areas are truly under-serviced, the $528 million freed up from defunding Planned Parenthood could go to opening new clinics in needy areas. And, as Ross Douthat points out in his New York Times op-ed, there’s no reason all these other services Warren wants to talk about need to be lumped together with an abortion provider.
…and yes, 3 percent of patients visit Planned Parenthood for a safe and legal abortion with a doctor who will show compassion and care for a woman who is making one of the most difficult decisions of her entire life.
Rich Lowry, writing at National Review, shows how the 3 percent figure comes through counting each service separately. “By Planned Parenthood’s math, a woman who gets an abortion but also a pregnancy test, an STD test, and some contraceptives has received four services, and only 25 percent of them are abortion.” In reality, compared with other services like cancer screenings and Pap tests, abortion comprises almost 30 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activity. Narrowing that to pregnancy services, abortions make up 92 percent compared to prenatal care and adoption services.
As for “compassion,” even Richards had to apologize for a staff member who wasn’t being compassionate. Confessions of former employees also don’t bear well on this claim, either, as they describe rushed procedures by stressed-out physicians.
But just to be clear, even though the abortions performed at Planned Parenthood are safe and legal, the federal government is not paying for any of them. Not one dime. For almost 40 years the federal government has prohibited federal funding for abortions accept for the case of rape, incest, and life endangerment. Most of the money Planned Parenthood receives from the government comes from Medicaid patients for medical care provided to low-income patients, the same payments that any other doctor or clinic receives for providing cancer screenings or other medical exams. The rest of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding comes from Title X, provides [sic] birth control to low-income and uninsured people, the same program House Republicans voted to cut in June. The government doesn’t fund abortions, period. A vote today to defund Planned Parenthood is not a vote to defund abortions, it’s a vote to defund cancer screenings and birth control and basic health care for millions of women.
Where to begin? First of all, money is fungible, like when states claim that lottery funds subsidize the education budget then cut the original funding for education, Planned Parenthood can take funds received for non-abortion services and administration and cross-fund its abortion activities. The government gave Planned Parenthood $528 million dollars per year, more than 40 percent of its budget. This would explain why Planned Parenthood has been willing to spend almost $7 million in lobbying efforts in the past five years.
But even if, by some miracle of accounting, no federal monies were going to directly pay for Planned Parenthood’s abortion activities, the federal government ought not be obliged to fund a company suspected of illegal activity. It’s as if Warren were suggesting that the government would have to keep funding a medical center known to be a front for the mafia or a drug cartel, simply because some of the services they provided were actually legal. If there is legal difficulty about this, adjusting the laws to remove the difficulties would be warranted.
I want to say to my Republican colleagues, the year is 2015, not 1955, and not 1895. Women have lived through a world where backward-looking ideologues tried to interfere with the basic health decisions made by a woman and her doctor, and we are not going back, not now, not ever. The Republican plan to defund Planned Parenthood is a Republican plan to defund women’s health care for my daughter, for my granddaughters, for people all across Massachusetts and all across this country. I stand with Planned Parenthood and I hope my colleagues will do the same. Thank you, Madame President, I yield.
Warren is desperate to link America’s leading abortion provider to uncontroversial medical services to defend them against a contrived war on women, but the logic and facts simply don’t support her argument.