Averting a Government Shutdown? GOP Says Over Your Dead Body. And They Mean It

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RH Reality Check

Averting a Government Shutdown? GOP Says Over Your Dead Body. And They Mean It

As of this morning, we are in a situation that could have been predicted at least two months ago when the first loud whispers of government shutdown became routine among members of the GOP/Tea Party in Congress, a situation that became a virtual certainty after a rally last week in which Tea Party members shouted like drunken frat boys to "shut it down."

What is that situation? A government shutdown that the radical right now governing the House of Representatives says can only be averted by one thing: Accepting policies that will destroy the health and wellbeing of American citizens.

In short, the GOP/Tea Party has two words for the American people: Drop Dead.

A government shut down will occur at 12:01 am Saturday morning, April 9th, unless President Obama and Senator Reid stare down the GOP/Tea Party and win, or unless they cave to specific policy demands over which some now believe even Speaker Boehner does not have control.

What are these policy demands?

First, the GOP/Tea Party, acceding to demands of the anti-person, anti-woman, anti-choice movement in this country, which wants to deny literally millions of poor and low-income women access to basic health care.  (This is apart from their desire to deny virtually everyone else health care unless they are rich enough to pay for it privately).  And now they seek to do so by taking down Planned Parenthood, one of their favorite boogeymen, speaking the simple name of which can send Congressmen Chris Smith, Joe Pitts, Mike Pence into paroxysms of rage.

And what is it that is so offensive?  The fact that using federal funds, Planned Parenthood centers throughout the country provide birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, annual exams, and other preventive care to millions of women whose health care is covered by Medicaid and other public health coverage programs.

Of the three million people served by Planned Parenthood health centers each year, two million participate in some federal health program. More than 90 percent of the health care Planned Parenthood provides is preventive. Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses carry out nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer and 830,000 breast exams. Planned Parenthood health centers also provide affordable birth control to nearly 2.5 million patients, and nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV testing for women and men. A large proportion of those served live well below the poverty line.

All (let me repeat this: ALL) of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding goes toward basic health care. Public funds account for roughly a third of Planned Parenthood’s $1 billion annual budget. These funds come from local, state and federal sources, but 90 percent come from Medicaid and other federal sources. Federal funds pay only for cancer screenings, birth control, family planning visits, annual exams, testing for HIV and other STIs, and other basic care.

Moreover, Planned Parenthood centers provide access to those who otherwise have NO other options.  Seventy-three percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas.

Planned Parenthood provides primary and preventive health care to many who otherwise would have nowhere to turn. According to the Guttmacher Institute, six in ten patients who receive care at a family planning health center like Planned Parenthood consider it their main source of health care.  And for every dollar spent on this preventive care, we save four dollars in health costs averted by not preventing adverse outcomes.

And don't buy the utter bull fed to you by the hand-wringers in the so-called pro-life community because this is not about "life," its not about abortion.  It is about and it is part of a concerted attack on the health and lives poor and low-income people of this country that is evident in every policy and every effort to repeal health reform, defund Medicare, undermine workers rights to bargain, and undermine their access to due process in the courts. It is part of a broader strategy that the far right has sold to the apparently totally gullible pundit class as being about "abortion."

What will happen if Planned Parenthood is defunded?  It is very simple.  More women will die of otherwise preventable or treatable breast and cervical cancers and potentially of complications of infections such as HIV; more women will have unintended pregnancies leading to more women seeking abortions; fewer women raped or experiencing gender-based violence in their homes at the hands of intimate partners will get health care or referrals to shelters (of which of course there will be few anyway because funds for those also are being cut).  More women who rely on Planned Parenthood to identify conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes will not get necessary referrals for treatment.  More families will suffer.  Those alternatives to Planned Parenthood ready to serve these millions of patients? Even the Wizard of Oz knows they don't exist.

Need further proof?  Look at just a few of the other policy riders on which the radical GOP/Tea Party also insist.

  • Prohibiting funding for the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.  In this country, we protect banks and corporations, not people with blood running through their veins.  Unless they are wealthy.Prohibits funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program.
  • Prohibits funding for EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.
  • Prohibits funding for the EPA to change a rule regulating water.  Clean drinking water?  Only if you can pay for it privately.
  • Puts a moratorium, for the duration of the CR, on the payment of legal fees to citizens and groups who sue the government.
  • Prohibits funding for capital advances or rental assistance contracts for HUD Housing for the Elderly projects.  Because elderly people in need don't deserve housing assistance.  Who needs death panels? Why go through the bureaucracy?
  • Prohibits funding for renewing tenant-based assistance contracts.
    Sec. 2238
    Prohibits funds for the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management
  • Prohibits funds to implement, administer or enforce the rule entitled “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants From the Portland Cement Manufacturing Industry and Standards of Performance for Portland Cement Plants,” published by the Environmental Protection Agency on September 9, 2010, which limits the levels of mercury in cement.

I could go on, but you can see them all here.  Suffice it to say that every major medical association in the United States has decried these riders as dangerous to public health.  In a statement, the American Lung Association, for example, expressed dismay at the passage of a bill by House Republicans that would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to update clean air standards.

“The bill would strip away sensible Clean Air Act protections that safeguard Americans and their families from toxic air pollution. These regulations are in place because over the past 40 years Congressional leaders of both political parties worked together to protect the lives and health of their constituents. The health and safety of all Americans should transcend political posturing.

“Chairman Upton’s bill is a reckless and irresponsible attempt to once again put special interests ahead of public health, a maneuver the public is staunchly opposed to.  The U.S Senate rejected this bill and the White House has indicated that it would veto it.  It is time to move forward with updating emissions standards to protect the public from life-threatening air pollution.”

Yup. They are concerned about life.  The GOP and Tea Party are concerned with one thing and one thing only: Turning the United States into an oligarchy controlled by corporations and the very wealthy, a world in which we have a weak and ineffective federal government, workers have no power, and women are subservient--completetly, totally--to men.  You can not make such demands at the federal level and support policies such as those being passed throughout the states, for example stripping rape exceptions to abortion bills, and not have these goals in mind, no matter what your PR says.

Like I said, the GOP and Tea Party want to avoid a shutdown only over your dead body.

And they mean it.

Jodi Jacobson

Jodi L. Jacobson is a long-time leader in the health and development community and an advocate with extensive experience in public health, gender equity, human rights, environment and demographic issues. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of RH Reality Check.

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