The Planned Parenthood Witch Trial

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Under the guise of a congressional “investigation”, Republican seat-moisteners lawmakers are trying to do to Planned Parenthood what they did to ACORN some seven years ago. This time, though, it isn’t working. This is mostly because Planned Parenthood has a broader and politically stronger constituency than ACORN ever did, and because the videos that anti-abortion activists have circulated that purport to show Planned Parenthood executives bartering for fetal body parts were so obviously doctored and unfairly edited.

It is true that fetal tissue from aborted fetuses is sometimes donated for scientific research. Research using fetal tissue has resulted in incredible scientific achievements.

The Congressional inquiry was chaired yesterday by Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, who, along with his right-wing colleagues, spent a great deal of time hurling insults and accusations but not at all a lot of time allowing the affiant, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, to testify.

The entire charade can be summed up in a chart that Chaffetz sprung on Richards at the end of his “inquiry”.  He hadn’t had the decency to show her in advance the chart he was going to use, so she was barely able to respond to it. But it was an especially – intentionally – dishonest piece of propaganda.

Chaffetz was trying to accuse Planned Parenthood of abdicating its role as a major women’s health care provider and instead making all kinds of money off of abortion. Here is the chart he showed:

The source is “Americans United for Life”, a radical anti-abortion lobbying group. Is this how these Republicans science and math? 

Notice that the vertical axes are not labeled. That’s because the two lines use different scaling. On the left side, cancer screening has a value of about 2,000,000; abortions, about 290,000. As you might expect, 2,000,000 is above 290,000. On the right, cancer screenings has a value of 936,000, and that is somehow below the number of abortions at 327,000. It’s also somehow below 290,000!

So, the chart is falsely designed to imply that Planned Parenthood now performs far more abortions than breast screenings, but that’s quite obviously untrue.

Kevin Drum went a step further in Mother Jones, showing how the charts should look:

He adds,

And why has the line for cancer screenings gone down? According to Cecile Richards, it’s because “some of the services, like pap smears, dropped in frequency because of changing medical standards about who should be screened and how often.”

More importantly, Drum adds that the suite of women’s health services that Planned Parenthood offers goes beyond mere breast cancer screenings, but includes things like STD testing and pap smears. If you include all of the non-abortion services that Planned Parenthood offers, the chart looks more like this:

This is standard Republican playbook stuff, but because of the sheer power and broad reach of the target, it’s not working out. The government isn’t going to be shut down over federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and the vast majority of Americans can see beyond the propaganda and value the important services that Planned Parenthood offers. It remains true that abortion services are never federally funded, and only make up 3% of what Planned Parenthood does. About 41% of the organization’s budget – just over $500 million – comes from federal funding for women’s health and contraception services.

The ACORN entrapment videos – all of which were deceptively edited, and none of which resulted in any illegality – targeted a group that worked to register mostly poor, mostly minority voters. This was supposed to be the sequel.

When Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina lies about a scene that doesn’t exist in any of the Planned Parenthood videos – a scene, incidentally, shot clandestinely without the mother’s permission or consent of a fetus that hadn’t been aborted, but was the victim of a miscarriage – it underscores that this Republican effort to destroy Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with abortion or “sale” of fetal body parts, but everything to do with interfering with women’s health and their ability to enjoy a safe and disease-free sex life. They’ve tried it before, and they won’t be satisfied until they completely alienate the female vote.

In the end, it’s about puritanism and denying to women their basic human rights. Here’s what that looks like:

Thankfully, there were reasonable people present:

It’s ok to be anti-abortion, and it would be great if abortions never happened. However, Planned Parenthood offers contraceptive services, the expansion of which would lower the number of abortions performed in this country. It’s ok to be anti-abortion, but it’s not ok to legislate a woman’s right to make that choice. But most importantly, because federal funds do not and cannot be used to finance abortion services, all of this is a lie. It is all a manufactured show-trial by men who cannot tolerate the idea that women be allowed control over their bodies and their reproductive rights.

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