Budget Showdown and Government Shutdown Not About Abortion

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The image to the left is a screen grab of a misleading headline (since changed) from an article in today’s New York Times: “As Latest Talks on Budget Fail, Democrats Cite Abortion Funds.”

But it’s not about abortion funds, it’s about the rider that Republicans have attached to the budget preventing federal funds, including Medicaid funding for low-income women, from going to Planned Parenthood, which by law cannot be used for abortions anyway. The funding Republicans seek to cut is for family planning, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment.

The article, in fact, was in conflict with the headline:

Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations said that proposed restrictions on money for Planned Parenthood remained the chief sticking point, and that attempts to resolve the disagreement through alternatives like allowing a separate floor vote on the issue had not been successful. Democrats said they were told by the Republicans that the votes of anti-abortion social conservatives would be needed to move any budget measure through the House.

Republicans said that no final agreement on money had been struck, and that both policy and spending issues were causing the impasse.

“The largest issue is still spending cuts,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said Friday morning.

By contrast, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, told reporters in an exchange broadcast on CNN Friday morning that “this all deals with women’s health” and that other issues had been resolved. “It has everything to do with ideology on that other side of the Capitol,” he said.

So Democrats didn’t cite abortion funds, did they? No, they cited Planned Parenthood funding, and women’s health, but not abortion funds. That’s because the federal government does not fund abortions. See the Hyde Amendment, which for 30 years has prevented federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.

There’s no question this isn’t about abortion funding; it’s plainly impossible that the dispute is about abortion funding since the Hyde Amendment ban on federal funding of abortion is clear and unequivocal. The Republicans’ latest budget shenanigans are part of a concerted campaign to agitate their base into believing Hyde is inadequate, that despite this completely unambiguous ban on taxpayer money paying for abortions that taxpayer money paying for other aspects of reproductive health care is somehow morally equivalent to paying for abortion. They couch it in terms of not wanting to fund Planned Parenthood, because they claim that Planned Parenthood is evil because it performs abortions, but it’s really about denying women access to the health care that provides the resources to make their own decisions about their reproductive futures.

Remember the whole bit about the Tea Party being all about fiscal, not social conservatism, and not about religion? The headline really should be—if the Democrats had the balls to say it—”As Latest Talks on Budget Fail, Democrats Cite Abortion Funds GOP’s Ongoing Religious Culture War.”

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