This week’s column at RH Reality Check is about the use of wedge issues by anti-choicers, and what they get out of it. The ones I identify as popular now are pretending to care about racism, pretending to care about women’s health, pretending to care about disability rights, and acting like huge victims of censorship (while actively supporting it in other ways). Antis love this shit; I get more “but you’re supposed to be tolerant!” whining on Twitter from fetus obsessives than any other conservatives—as if “tolerance” requires liberal women to hand our bodies over to the control of misogynist Jesus freaks. The article was about wedge issues as a strategy, and not the particular meaning of any one wedge issue, so please read it if you’re interested in the strategic issues at stake. But because of this, I wasn’t able to address in depth the “genocide” conspiracy theory that Jesse wrote about recently. RH Reality Check has put together an excellent series documenting how the claim is based in a racist, sexist view of women of color as uniquely unable to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Here’s Miriam Perez’s piece, which contains links to many others. Shani Hilton also wrote about this at the American Prospect. Jodi Jacobson has put together information explaining why the abortion rate for black women is higher than that of white women—basically lack of access to decent contraception leaves black women far more open to unintended pregnancy. Interestingly, anti-choicers do everything in their power to avoid talking about main reason for the vast majority of abortions—unwanted pregnancy—so it’s important when dealing with them to remind them every few minutes or so that abortions don’t happen because evil feminists (working with perverted men) force them, or because women who get abortions are painfully stupid and don’t know what they’re doing. It’s because of unwanted pregnancies, and the stopping of them. Duh.
Access is what I want to talk about now. The “genocide” claim is a classic wedge issue strategy, and it’s important to view it with that lens—the way that anti-choicers claiming to be anti-racist reinforce racist arguments, the way that these sorts of things create confusing and misleading stories in the mainstream media, the way it’s intended to make liberals run scared of having this discussion. But the “genocide” claim is also part of a strategy to deprive many women of necessary health care they often can’t get anywhere else. And some men, too.
The “genocide” rhetoric is being used to push for policy, and not just to confuse the debate about reproductive rights. The policy desired by anti-choicers? Defunding Planned Parenthood branches that serve low-income communities, especially ones that are predominantly black or Hispanic. There’s no doubt other goals, but that’s the biggie. The idea is to pretend that Planned Parenthood does nothing but abortion, and under the cover of “concern”, take clinics out of communities that often don’t have their reproductive health care needs met even with Planned Parenthood filling in the gaps.
For instance, of the “genocide” argument being used to fight the building of a specific Planned Parenthood branch in Houston. The niceness of the clinic is being held out as further proof that it’s “evil”, though even though there’s all this feigned concern for the heavily minority population of the neighborhood, the underlying belief that non-white citizens don’t deserve nice things comes through loud and clear. Under the guise of stopping “genocide”, in other words, anti-choicers are trying to cut off access to health care for the very people they feign concern for. The fact that black women are less likely than white women to have regular access to health care services is surely one of the reasons that the abortion rate is higher for black women—the most reliable forms of contraception for women who really don’t want to have more kids for reasons we should respect are mostly forms of contraception you have to see a doctor to get. Cutting off access to Planned Parenthood will only make this situation worse.
But Planned Parenthood has a lot more health care services than those geared strictly towards contraception and abortion. I went to the Houston Planned Parenthood website to find out exactly how many services anti-choicers are trying to snatch away from the citizens of Houston who rely on Planned Parenthood. The list is very long indeed: diabetes testing, anemia testing, flu vaccinations, blood pressure screening, smoking cessation, cholesterol screening, cancer screening for women, extensive gynecological services, STD testing. Just to name a few. Planned Parenthood has expanded its services in a lot of areas based on what the community needs. In parts of California, Planned Parenthood works with WIC, for instance.
According to Planned Parenthood’s demographics research, 75% of their patients are at or below 150% of the poverty level. That’s about $33,000 for a family of four, and for a single parent with one child, that’s surviving on $22,000 or less a year. In other words, you’re looking at a lot of women who don’t have health insurance, and so the cost controlled services at Planned Parenthood are often the only access they’ve got. When anti-choicers attack Planned Parenthood, the people they’re attacking are those who have very little money and very little access to health care and who often have to go without or get substandard care if they don’t have Planned Parenthood. That’s the ugly truth of the matter. Behind all this feigned concern is a dark, sadistic plan to deprive people in need of health care.