War on Women
By Kevin Longrie
Earlier this month, the Senate voted down a budget proposal which would completely remove federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The bill, which had already passed the House of Representatives, also sought to eliminate funds for Title X, the family planning program established in 1970 for low-income women, many of whom do not qualify for Medicaid. Although its progress has been halted momentarily, the rhetoric surrounding the issue suggests further debates and political entrenchment.
Planned Parenthood currently relies on federal funds for one-third of its entire budget. The proposed cuts have been met with massive and growing opposition. Protests have bubbled up around the country, debate over the issue has saturated public radio and television news channels, and a recent editorial in the New York Times even called what’s going on in Washington “the war on women” (an expression echoed in a campaign begun on MoveOn.org).
After co-organizing the local version of the Walk for Choice in February, which helped raise awareness about the federal cuts, Gloria Lucas, a student at Riverside Community College, wants to “repeat [her] success.” Lucas acknowledges that the danger of federal defunding still looms large over the 112th Congress and that, as such, her work is far from finished.
“It stands to affect our community greatly,” Lucas says, pointing out that there are five Planned Parenthoods in the Inland Empire alone. These clinics, which Lucas believes are crucial to the well-being of the women and low-income families throughout Riverside and San Bernardino counties, provide low-cost or no-cost contraception, reproductive healthcare, prenatal care, counseling, nutritional support for newborn babies, screenings and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, as well as general healthcare to low-income families. Abortions, according to Planned Parenthood, make up less than 4 percent of their activity.
Lucas, president of the RCC campus club Feminists Unite and collaborator with the IE Feminist Collective, is planning a rally Friday with the goal of further raising awareness over these federal issues and how they will affect citizens on the local and the national level. She expects the rally—which will begin at Back to the Grind, a Riverside coffee shop on University Avenue, and end with a march into downtown—to have a considerable turnout and hopefully, she says, “clear up some misconceptions.”
The most common misconceptions, Lucas explains, are attached to the subject of Title X. Title X was designed to give low-income households access to affordable healthcare and family planning information that they would not otherwise be able to receive. None of the federal money disbursed to Planned Parenthood through Title X or other methods is used to fund abortions.
And yet many Republicans are calling for the elimination of any and all federal funding towards organizations that perform or are affiliated with abortion, even though, as stated above, no federal money is currently allocated for that procedure. Indiana Republican Mike Pence, according to NPR, called the passing of the bill in the House “a victory for taxpayers and a victory for life.”
But according to studies done by the Guttmacher Institute, a leader in sexual health research and education, this party logic is flawed. Their research indicates that the defunding of important social programs would lead to a sharp rise in unintended pregnancies, which would actually yield close to 400,000 more abortions a year.
“These budget cuts definitely hurt,” Lucas says. “The people who are in need, low-income individuals and families, and particularly women of color […] would be negatively affected by it.”
The importance and immediacy of the local rally, Lucas explains, reveals that the congressional proposal is a “community issue.” Though it would disproportionately affect lower-income families and individuals—especially youths—who do not have the luxury of other healthcare options if federal funding halts, it also impacts community members of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
“In my nearly 30 years as an educator, I have been able to refer teens who are in trouble, or want to avoid being in trouble, to Planned Parenthood,” says Gena Engelfried, principal of The Grove School in Redlands. “Removing this resource would be just one more thorn in the side of our nation’s troubled low-income young adult population.”