Religious House Republicans Plan To Deny Contraception Access to 4.6 Million Women

Close-up of birth control pills in two plastic tablet dispenser cases --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Close-up of birth control pills in two plastic tablet dispenser cases — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

There is something to be said about Republicans and their never-change direction agenda that may be related to their “conservative” affliction. For the past five years one of the primary goals of Republicans they just cannot abandon is fulfilling the demands of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to ban contraception use in America. It was not enough that the Papal-5 on the Supreme Court ruled that religious employers could restrict their employees’ use of birth control, so now Republicans have resorted to their annual attempt to eliminate the Title X program that provides family planning services, including contraceptives, to roughly 4.6 million impoverished women. As usual, since Republicans in the House control the nation’s purse strings, they are using the 2016 budget to eliminate all funding for Title X and finally end the program that has been one of their cherished goals since taking control of the House in 2011.

When the Title X program was created in 1970 under Republican president Richard Nixon, the concept of federally-funded family planning services had overwhelming support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who acknowledged the pressing need to make birth control more accessible to impoverished American women.  Republicans and Democrats both agreed with former president Nixon that being poor should not mean a woman had to be perpetually pregnant. But that was long before Republicans won control of the House in 2010 when, instead of fulfilling their campaign pledge to create jobs, they declared a religious war on women and defunding the federal program became their raison d’être as hardcore theocrats. One of the first items the Republican-controlled House voted on in 2011 was dismantling Title X and they did vote to completely eliminate the then-forty one year old program along strict party lines.

Over the past five years, the evangelical Republican war to abolish the now 45 year old family planning program was successfully thwarted by a Democratic-controlled Senate. However, now with a Koch Senate repaying evangelicals for getting out to vote in 2014, it looks like Republican theocrats will finally do right by the Vatican, eradicate Title X, and deprive at least 4.6  million women from having access to reproductive care including safe, dependable contraceptives, cancer and STD screenings, and assistance in planning when to start their families. It would be the ultimate wet dream for evangelical Republicans and Vatican loyalists to see several million, mostly poor women, denied family planning services and access to contraception; it is just what good evangelical and Catholic Republicans have panted to accomplish for the past five years.

Before 2010, support for Title X had broad bipartisan support and most legislators agreed with then-president Richard Nixon who said on Title X’s inception that, “It is my view that no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.” Of course that was long before Republicans became Vatican puppets and women, although still thought of as second class citizens in 1970, were not yet relegated to the role of being perpetual birth machines by evangelical Republicans.

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The proposal from the House Appropriations Committee also reveals the Republican intent to eliminate most of the Affordable Care Act, eliminate as much federal funding from comprehensive sex education and teen pregnancy prevention programs that will increase the number of abortions, and give religious employers much greater power and authority to refuse health insurance coverage that includes reproductive services, including contraception, on evangelical Christian and Vatican loyalty grounds; likely in anticipation of the new and friendlier Pope’s upcoming visit with Congress. The Republican-led committee held a religious hearing on the proposal to end family planning services to 4.6 women on Wednesday; sans Papal attendance.

As reproductive rights advocates and family planning providers have warned for four years, Title X is already suffering from some very serious, and very deliberate, budget shortfalls the advocates assert will have nothing but disastrous consequences for millions of poor families in America, but to no avail. Obviously, disastrous consequences for millions of poor women are precisely what evangelical Republicans and Vatican loyalists have championed over the past six years, and now they see a prime opportunity to do their political worst.

In fact, according to the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards, “This is politics at its worst. Cutting the Title X Family Planning program will leave nearly 4.6 million people without care. If Republican leaders in Congress think they can take away millions of women’s access to health care and shut down programs that are reducing teen pregnancy (and preventing abortions) without one hell of a fight, they have another thing coming.” With all due respect to Ms. Richards, the fight she implies is coming is not just against politicians in Congress. It is against evangelical Republicans, a cabal of religious right clergy, the Vatican, the Supreme Court, religious corporations, and the all-powerful patriarchal United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; the group behind the drive to ban contraception use in the United States whether by eliminating Title X or pushing the phony religious liberty ploy to control women that began with Hobby Lobby and continues by denying 4.6 million poor women family planning and contraception access.

Results of research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute reveals that 20 million women, nearly all of them impoverished, in this uber-wealthy nation desperately need access to publicly-funded contraception, but Title X clinics historically have only met barely one third of that need. The situation has been getting even worse in recent years by Republican design. As a result of the Bush-Republican Great Recession, more Americans fell into poverty and Title X’s patient load increased nearly as dramatically as its budget was slashed by the same Republicans responsible for the recession. Now, just as the unmet need for affordable birth control has increased substantially, some of the poorest women in the country face being restricted from getting the desperately-needed access to the family planning services they need; again, it is all by the Republicans’ theocratic design.

There is no other reason for Republicans to try defunding Title X than denying family planning services and contraception from women. It certainly is not a budget, debt, deficit, or fiscal responsibility issue or Republicans would not propose hundreds-of-billions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich, spend well over half the entire nation’s budget on war when the country is not at war, or continue giving unfunded and unnecessary subsidies to the oil, pharmaceutical, agriculture, or church industries if their issue with Title X was about economics. No, this is about religion, specifically the religions, evangelical Christians and Vatican, that believe every woman in America should be like Michelle Duggar and stay perpetually in birthing mode. Still, although there is an outcry at the idea of eliminating Title X, no-one is willing to cite the real source of this hateful war against women’s access to reproductive health care and particularly contraception. Although the war is being waged by Republican legislators, they are driven by religion and it is high time family planning advocates start admitting that the real problem is evangelicals and Catholic ideology getting nearer to their goal of banning contraception.

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