As I wrote this morning, news outlets are portraying the budget showdown over Planned Parenthood funding as one about “abortion.” It is not. It is about defunding the other services Planned Parenthood provides, not just because it also provides abortion, not just because the religious right doesn’t like the other stuff it does, but because the religious right model is that God’s will should guide your reproduction. As the religious right heroine Michelle Duggar says, “Our motto is obey first, understand later.”
Now the GOP and its religious right allies might argue that Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be funded because it provides abortions, therefore it shouldn’t be supported in its other services, either. Mike Pence claims he is not for shutting down family planning, just, you know, the biggest provider of family planning. But if you listen to what the religious right says, it’s really about the whole package of what they believe God’s plan and design for women and families is.
Mark Goldberg has a great post on another, little-noticed provision in the GOP riders that’s also a hobby horse of the religious right: an effort to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The UNFPA doesn’t even provide abortions, as Goldberg clearly lays out and I noted last year in discussing religious fundamentalism and global womens’ health. Yet Rep. Chris Smith, one of the most vehement opponents of womens’ reproductive rights in Congress, has claimed that the UNFPA, which Goldberg documents provides life-saving services to women around the world, “remains guilty of shamelessly supporting and whitewashing terrible crimes against humanity.” During the Bush administration, anti-choice activists successfully cut off US funding for UNFPA in part based on their false claim that the UNFPA supported “forced abortions” under China’s one-child policy.
This is the same Chris Smith, by the way, who recently traveled to Kenya to condemn that country’s recent decriminalization of abortion, after expending taxpayer resources demanding a USAID Inspector General investigation into whether the Obama administration had broken the law prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being used to lobby for or against abortion overseas. USAID had supported the passage of a new Kenyan constitution, which decriminalized abortion. A USAID spokesperson told me last year that the Inspector General “did not find evidence that USAID funds had been spent on direct lobbying for or against abortion.”
For Smith, though, and the other anti-UNFPA, anti-Planned Parenthood crusaders, the model family is something like the 19-kid Duggars—let God’s hand, not some pesky birth control—guide your life. As the Family Research Council noted last year in bestowing an award on the stars of 19 Kids and Counting at the Values Voters Summit, the Duggars, with their cable television reality show, serve as a Christian model for the rest of America of what happens when you let the Bible be “the owner’s manual for life.” The Duggars, after all, claim that birth control pills actually caused Michelle to miscarry early in their marriage, and have since then left everything in God’s hands.
When the Democrats criticize the Republicans for “throwing women under the bus” or assert they are “not bending on women’s health” they miss telling the whole story. Maybe some voters wouldn’t be moved by the bus-n-bend talking points. But maybe they’d be moved if they knew that what was behind the Republican strategy was the goal of making the religious right’s reading of the Bible the “owner’s manual for life.”
UPDATE: Via Dave Weigel and Think Progress, it looks like at least two possible 2012 presidential contenders, Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee, are seeing the political downsides of letting the government shut down over the Planned Parenthood rider.