Posted by | April 9, 2011 21:50 | Filed under: Top Stories

By Yashwanth Manjunath

Yesterday the Republicans tried to shut down the entire federal government over funding to Planned Parenthood. Think about that for a second (or longer), because it is so overwhelmingly vile and repugnant. Republicans were willing to risk the terrible consequences of a government shutdown: possibly cutting off troop funding, withholding veterans benefits and Social Security checks for the elderly and the disabled, and sending the economy back into a tailspin, over Planned Parenthood.

Cutting funding to Planned Parenthood is not about preventing abortions, because federally funded family planning actually prevents 2 million unintended pregnancies and 800,000 abortions every year! No one, liberals or conservatives, like it when a young women has to resort to an abortion. The question is how best to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The social conservative solution is to just tell teenagers not to have sex, because it is dirty and horrible and immoral. How did that work out for Bristol Palin?

Planned Parenthood takes a different approach to the problem; they actually educate and empower young women to take control of their bodies and their futures. For example, one of their more successful programs is “Dollar-A-Day,” which pays teenage girls a dollar for every day they do not become pregnant.

When asked about why she joined “Dollar-A-Day,” University of Denver student Mercedes Hernandez-Queen responded by saying:

I did not join the program for the monetary incentive. I think a couple girls did at first, but it’s more than that. I liked that it was an open space to talk about anything that was going on in school. It wasn’t just sex education—it was a resource.

And when asked where she would be without “Dollar-A-Day,” Hernandez-Queen was not sure but she did say:

It changed my life drastically. I know I can say no to having sex, I know how to stand up for myself as a person. It has empowered me to be who I am and I know I can really do anything.

So when Republicans talk about shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, they are not protecting the futures of unborn fetuses, but they are endangering the futures of countless young women in need of help and guidance, like Mercedes Hernandez-Queen.

The real reason Republicans fought so hard for their Planned Parenthood rider is that they wanted to use low-income women as political hostages, along with the threat of a shutdown, to pressure the Democrats to agree to their draconian spending cuts. Spending cuts that Republicans want to see target government services for the poor and the middle class, rather than subsidies for corporate agribusiness, or wasteful defense spending, or subsidies for Big Oil.

But this is the Republican playbook. During the debate over the Bush tax cuts they used the unemployed, 9/11 first responders, and gays serving in the military as hostages, by threatening to cut off unemployment benefits right before the holidays, and deny votes on the Zdroga health care bill and a repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” until their rich donor friends were taken care of.

Republicans look for the most vulnerable and helpless people in the country and use them to pursue their radical far-right agenda. Everyone who stands in the way of their Social-Darwinistic vision of America is collateral damage and that is the critical disadvantage that Democrats deal with in every important negotiation. It is the Democrats’ job to care about the helpless and the suffering; it is their job to govern the country responsibly.

I know I am more critical of President Obama and the Democratic Party than most liberals, but it is because I truly care about the issues that I write about, and the people who are harmed by compromised policy. But make no mistake; as disappointing as the Democrats are, the Republicans are always worse and ever voting for the national Republican Party is a horrible idea. As much as the Democrats can be corporate sellouts in their own right, the Republicans just reminded us yesterday that there is still a very real difference between the two parties.

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