Conservative Republicans' war on women's rights and health care needs by no means begins or ends with the crude attack by Rush Limbaugh, whose verbal mauling of Sandra Fluke -- simply for advocating affordable access to birth control before a congressional panel -- stunned so many Americans. The GOP war is playing out far more broadly around the nation through attacks by Republican-controlled state governments on partial state funding for Planned Parenthood, and on Title X, the chief federal program for family planning.
Some Tennessee lawmakers, along with those in a dozen other state legislatures, seek a cutoff of funding to Planned Parenthood, which offers an array of women's' health care services. But it is Texas that has shown just how cruel and aggressive state governments can be against services to women when legislatures lose sight of reason, simple compassion and the wide need for general health care for women.
Texas' Republican-dominated Legislature has slashed funding to Planned Parenthood by two-thirds. That has led to the closing of more than a dozen vital clinics across the state, some run by Planned Parenthood, and some by independent clinics that were partially funded by Planned Parenthood.
The services they provided went mostly to low-income women who cannot afford health insurance, and who have few options. Those services included pap smears, screenings for breast and cervical cancer, screenings for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, counseling on infertility options, counseling on adolescent abstinence, and some contraceptive services. Notably, none of these clinics, not even those run by Planned Parenthood, provided abortion services.
In fact, Texas had already moved to bar clinics that receive state assistant from performing abortions. But that wasn't good enough. The Republican right-wingers' new law is designed to preclude any money, for any service, to Planned Parenthood.
Texas is not alone in its unjustified antipathy for Planned Parenthood and its neglect of low-income women with no affordable options. Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Indiana, among others, are also in the crusade against women's health care.
These and other states are now targeting Title X, which provides about $75 million of its $300 million budget to Planned Parenthood as a general provider for women's services. The rest of its budget goes to hospitals, clinics and state agencies which broadly attend to women's health needs, though no Title X funds may be used for abortion
There's no rational reason for the assaults on Title X or Planned Parenthood. Federal data shows that Title X funding helps prevent more than a million unintended pregnancies annually, not to mention the broader health benefits and savings for preventive care and disease and cancer screenings. And every dollar spent on family planning saves four times as much in spending on maternity and infant care.
Contraceptive services, moreover, have become an integral part of women's health care. As Sandra Fluke told the congressional panel the other week, for example, some women have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which commonly requires prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on a woman's ovaries. Others need contraceptives to regulate erratic menstrual cycles. Many low-income women often can't afford the $3,000 annual cost of contraceptives without the aid of health insurance or publicly funded programs like Title X and Planned Parenthood.
The health care of millions of women is needlessly at stake. Yet the Republicans' presidential nominee front-runners, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, have both pledged to deny funding for Title X and organization's like Planned Parenthood -- along with their promises to dismantle health care reform and the broad care it would provide to all.
Informed voters beware: Most all of have us a daughter, sister, niece or spouse who may be uninsured, or whose health care insurance may soon be jeopardized by job loss, and this is the heartless nation Republicans pledge to bring us.