How Choice, Family Planning Became Partisan Issues

If there’s one thing the modern Republican Party wants you to know about them, it is that they are Anti- Choice. No, it’s not fiscal conservatism. It’s not creating jobs. It’s definitely not trying to find solutions to the nation’s issues. Just take a look at their record. In every state that the GOP holds power, anti- abortion and family planning restrictions have been the supreme priority. Just in 2013, over 40 separate restrictions have been passed across different states. And that number keeps on climbing. If Republicans are not working to pass TRAP laws, then they are working hard to defund established programs for women’s health and family planning services.

But the real irony here? We wouldn’t have those services in the first place if not for the diligent work of the GOP. The law that we now know as Title X, the law that essentially funds family planning for low income women, was signed by none other than Republican President Richard M. Nixon, and passed Congress due to the tireless support of then- Congressman George H.W. Bush. Smart, sensible contraceptive services were part of the Republican legacy of the late 60s and early 70s in this country, which all came to a crescendo with the Roe V. Wade decision in 1973.

But as money influence grew and the number of GOP voters didn’t, it became necessary for the party to start using wedge issues as a way to stir up fear and anger within their base. Republicans have been forced to latch on to the far-right in order to stay relevant, and as a result are driving out party moderates at a deafening pace. Those moderates were given an ultimatum at the 1976 GOP convention. The party was faced with fracture over Roe V. Wade, and the Pro-choice wing… much closer to even with Anti- Choicers at the time… was basically silenced to form a lasting coalition with the Religious Right. From that point forward, Pro-Choice opinions in the party have virtually vanished from the national scene.

But even with this cogent reality, there are still a few Republicans out there that refuse to hop on the anti-choice, anti- family planning bandwagon, and they pay dearly for it with party backlash. Take Texas State Representative Sarah Davis for example. During the Second Special session of Texas’ 83rd legislature, she became the one and only Republican to speak out against the state aggressive plan to ban abortions at 2 weeks, and close down the vast majority of the state’s clinics. The reward for her independent action? Having her Twitter account hacked, threatening calls to her offices and a slew of terrible blog posts. And of course, that’s just the public backlash… privately the party probably wasn’t very happy with her stance.

But some might be surprised to know that there are a few voices of sanity still out there. The Republican Majority for Choice is a PAC devoted to encouraging the Pro-Choice movement within the GOP. This is from an August 2nd RMC blog post

Unfortunately, many Americans still do not have unfettered access to birth control. Cost and restrictions can make contraception inaccessible to those people who need it most; regular visits to a doctor and prescription costs prevent many people from obtaining reliable birth control. And now, in states such as Texas, some uninformed lawmakers are reducing funding to family planning initiatives, cutting off all healthcare access to many families. The results of these cuts have been glaringly injurious to all citizens. Unintended pregnancies in Texas have been on the rise, and the cost to taxpayers could be as high as $273 million. Some people argue that it is not the duty of government to provide these services, but the reality is that without them, the financial burden on taxpayers will be dramatically increased in the long run.

As Republicans, we firmly believe in responsible government spending, and we cannot allow our leaders to cut corners now that will cost taxpayers millions in the future. While some individuals object to investments in family planning, the reality is that spending money on preventative services now will save the nation millions of dollars down the road; it is truly the only fiscally responsible choice.

The Republican Party once championed investments in family planning, and the numbers clearly illustrate why we must move back towards that position. A recent study from the Guttmacher Institute reveals that for every $1 spent on family planning initiatives, the nation saves $5.68 in the long run. With programs like Title X, we can increase the quality of living for out citizens and save enormously on healthcare burdens in the future. The facts are undeniable: family planning and access to birth control save the country money.

In addition to proving the only sensible choice, family planning initiatives also serve the goals of social conservatives. Without public investment in family planning, 2010 would have seen approximately 2.2 million more unintended pregnancies, resulting in 760,000 more abortions. This is an issue where we can find common ground. There is only one way proven effective to reduce the rate and incidence of abortion: promoting access and use of birth control. We should agree on this issue no matter our political views.

Is it possible that a common-sense message like this one can ever find resonance in the greater GOP again? That answer is not known for sure, but it’s already appealing to citizens in states like Texas and North Carolina, as was evidenced through historic protests of recent omnibus abortion bills. And that’s where Democrats have an advantage. They already know that having access to contraception, and educated choices actually reduces the number of abortions performed. They already know that its also not only better for women, but saves the government money. But this must be articulated in a coordinated message, the same way the GOP executes their Anti- Choice lies. The RMC is making the case for how to win over Red States. Now it’s up to Democrats to pay attention and harness it. As long as the GOP makes contraception and family planning a group of wedge political issues, Democrats can and should use them to their advantage, and win over common- sense conservatives and moderates.

And remember that safe, legal and rare argument?? Why did that seem to vanish from the Democratic lexicon after the Clintons? We should bring it back too.

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