Yesterday my wife and I were in the car listening to the latest news about our looming budget crisis and the fact that negotiations were hinging on issues of funding for women’s health programs. We were both pretty annoyed. Then the newscast turned to a discussion of Planned Parenthood. This is when my wife’s blood pressure wound up like the RPM display on the dashboard.
“All women should be outraged!” she said. And she was right.
You see, Planned Parenthood receives federal money to support medical care to women. The problem is that Planned Parenthood also provides abortion services. Federal funds do not pay for abortions in any way. Private money covers the costs of these services. But, as some have pointed out, the fact that Planned Parenthood can use federal dollars to pay for wellness exams makes it a little easier to locate other funds to cover abortions. And, apparently, this conundrum is such a critical issue that the entire United States government may need to close up shop until we fix this particular problem.
Personally, when it comes to cutting Planned Parenthood, I think the whole thing is another lame-ass attempt to destroy important services without any regard for why those services were created in the first place. But I want to take a moment to note – very clearly – that the logic behind this particular argument is sound and the concern is legitimate. It’s a fair question and it requires a fair and thoughtful response. Everyone with a serious concern and a serious desire to work out a solution deserves to be heard.
That being said, I still think women – actually, everyone – should be outraged.
You see, every time programs like Planned Parenthood are made the target of partisan hackery, every woman in America is being used and abused on national television.
Think about it. Why are a bunch of privileged, middle-aged dudes bickering about the specifics of women’s healthcare?
I’ll tell you why.
Some of our current leaders are not interested in, well, leading. They don’t want solutions. They certainly don’t want to resolve the difficult contradictions that sometimes emerge within our national philosophies and policies. They want issues. They want arguments. And pulling abortion/women/women’s health into the conversation gets people all kinds of worked up.
Now think about this. Why does this tactic work again and again and again?
I’ll tell you why.
We have yet to accept women as full partners in, well, anything. Women are strange creatures who enter our homes, offices, classrooms, and lives. It’s cool if they want to hang out or whatever. But they make us – you know… “us”... guys – a little uncomfortable. We don’t really understand them. We don’t really trust them. And, honestly, we don’t want to.
That is why women should be outraged.
American women and their bodies are being used as political play things because the topics of women, women’s rights, and women’s health make most of us feel awkward. We don’t know what to say. We don’t want to talk about it. And that is extremely convenient for some of our political leadership. They don’t want to talk about things either.
So, instead of addressing the imminent shut down of our national government and how we might compromise around our differences, we get to talk with lady parts. Except, not really. I mean, it’s girl stuff. It’s icky and we don’t want think about it, understand it, pay for it, or be involved with it. Ever.
Images: Planned Parenthood Supporters (21 Feb 2011), by Portland-based Reporter S. MiRK