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Abortion and Congress | Globe Editorial

Don’t politicize women’s health

March 1, 2011

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CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS who oppose abortion are targeting Planned Parenthood, but their maneuvering could end up hurting poor women who need vital health services. An amendment that House Republicans included in a recent spending resolution specifically bars Planned Parenthood from taking federal money. That ban might not hold up in the courts, but the resolution goes further, eliminating all funding for Title X — a Nixon-era program that provides a range of health services for low-income women nationwide.

Yes, Planned Parenthood provides a significant portion of the abortions that take place in the United States each year. But abortions make up only about 3 percent of the group’s services, and are covered by federal dollars only in cases involving rape, incest, or endangerment of the mother’s life. The federal funding the group gets, through such programs as Title X and Medicaid, instead provides vital preventative health services for women: cancer screenings, treatments for sexually transmitted diseases, and the affordable contraception and family planning services that can reduce unwanted pregnancies — and lower the demand for abortion in the first place. Two-thirds of the 3 million Planned Parenthood patients who get these services qualify for some kind of federal assistance.

The House GOP can’t directly go after abortion, which remains legal. So its obvious goal is to weaken Planned Parenthood through other means — no matter the risk to some women who might lose services as a result. It makes no sense to fight abortion by undermining women’s health, and the Democratic-controlled Senate should reject the House Republicans’ maneuver.