Now Republican members of the US House of Representatives have introduced multiple bills to make illegal something that is already illegal. So, what’s up with that?
The bottomline is that with newly introduced legislation Republicans have declared a war on family planning, a war Planned Parenthood, a war on women’s health services, and a war on women– particularly poor women. Planned Parenthood offers family planning and preventive health screening to 3 million people per year– mostly poor women who don’t have health insurance. Less than 10 percent of Planned Parenthoods’ services are related to legal, non-government-funded abortions, but that hasn’t stopped Republican ideologues from targeting them and their services for elimination.
Here is an excerpt from Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviewing Celie Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. You can listen to or read the full interview here. [Emphasis added.]
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show looking at what’s being described as “the most dangerous legislative assault on women’s health” ever. Since taking power in January, the Republican-led House has introduced several major anti-choice bills that women’s rights activists say could place severe limitations on access to reproductive health services. This, despite a campaign pledge to focus on creating jobs. Republican House Speaker John Boehner hailed the proposed legislation.
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: A ban on taxpayer funding of abortions is the will of the people, and it ought to be the will of the land. The current law, particularly as enforced by this administration, does not reflect the will of the American people. Last year, we listened to the American people through America Speaking Out. They spoke on this issue loudly and clearly. So we have included it in our pledge, and today we’re making good on that commitment.
Congressman Chris Smith has introduced bipartisan legislation that codifies the Hyde Amendment and other similar policies by permanently applying a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions across all federal programs. This commonsense legislation reflects the will of the people and deserves the support of the House. It’s one of our highest legislative priorities, and as such, I’ve directed that it receive the designation of H.R. 3.
AMY GOODMAN: That was House Speaker John Boehner. As he noted, H.R. 3, called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” would cut off public funds for abortions. A second bill, H.R. 358, called the “Protect Life Act,” would prohibit federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services under the Affordable Care Act. A third bill, H.R. 217, called the “Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act,” would deny federal family planning funds to any organizations that perform abortions, regardless of whether or not the organization uses that federal money for abortions.
To discuss the legislation, we’re joined now by Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. Through its affiliates, Planned Parenthood provides family planning, contraception and abortion services at more than 800 health clinics across the country, serving more than three million patients a year.
Cecile Richards, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what’s happening in Washington, D.C., today, where you are lobbying Congress?
CECILE RICHARDS: Sure. Thanks, Amy. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be back.
The House leadership in Congress has basically just declared war on women, really from day one. And I know you had that clip there from Speaker Boehner, but it goes much further than that. They not only are now trying to—federal funding hasn’t been available for abortion for more than 30 years, but what they’re really doing is trying to overturn the legal right to abortion in any context. As well, though, it’s way beyond abortion. Now they’re basically trying to end family planning and access to birth control in America. The Republican budget that came out basically gets rid of the nation’s Family Planning Program. And as well, we expect in the next day or two, with the support of the Speaker, there will be an amendment to basically end all federal funds going to Planned Parenthood, including funds that are used for basic birth control, cancer screenings and preventive care for more than three million people every year.
AMY GOODMAN: In your 800 clinics of Planned Parenthood, how much of the work is around abortion? What is the array of services that you provide?
CECILE RICHARDS: Less than 10 percent of our services are related to abortion. In fact, 90 percent, more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s care is preventive care. We do—we provide birth control to about two-and-a-half million people every year. We do almost a million cancer screenings for breast exams, as well as cervical cancer screenings. We’re now one of the largest providers of STD testing and treatment in the country.
And for so many women who come to Planned Parenthood, like other family planning clinics, we are their only doctor. You know, the vast majority of women who come to Planned Parenthood, it will be the only doctor they see all year. And so, I think one of the most damaging things about what’s being proposed by the Republican leadership right now in Congress is it would basically take away healthcare for three million people who currently have it.
CECILE RICHARDS: No, and it hasn’t since—it hasn’t for more than 30 years. So, I mean, I was really struck by the clip that you played from Speaker Boehner talking about the will of the people. I actually thought the will of the people, based on this last election, was to get the American economy back going and get people back to work. So it’s quite stunning to me that instead of focusing on jobs and really getting the economy going, they are spending all of their time talking about issues that I think the American people are settled. And the fact that they would, after this healthcare—you know, working over the last two years to finally expand healthcare access to folks in America, their very proposals would take away healthcare for more than five million women who currently have access to it through the nation’s Family Planning Program or through Planned Parenthood.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go through these three major bills right now before Congress.
CECILE RICHARDS: OK.
AMY GOODMAN: First, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which critics call the “Stupak on Steroids” bill.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, the Smith—the Chris Smith bill that Speaker Boehner was referring to is the most far-reaching bill we have ever seen. And not only does it codify the Hyde Amendment, which of course we disagree with, but—that is currently the law that federal funds can’t be used for abortion—but it even says, if you use your own money, a woman uses her own money to purchase health insurance that covers abortion, she will have to pay higher taxes, because she can no longer get the tax benefits of having healthcare coverage that’s comprehensive. Same with small business owners. If you’re a business owner and you get a tax benefit from providing—from providing healthcare coverage, if that coverage also includes abortion coverage, you can no longer get that tax benefit. And it’s going to deny—essentially, the purpose of the Smith bill is to take away the right of women to have abortion coverage in insurance anywhere in America, even women with desperately needed terminations based on medical need.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the redefining of “rape” that’s included in H.R. 3, Cecile Richards.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, this is the most egregious thing and that absolutely has—I think defines the kind of attitude we’re seeing by the House leadership, which is it attempted to say there are only certain kinds of rape that now you would have the right to get an abortion, and that was forcible rape. They wanted to redefine what are good rapes and what are bad rapes. And it has created an enormous public outcry, and I think to the embarrassment of the leadership. But I think it’s just one indication of how far they are willing to go in taking away women’s access to healthcare in America.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, you have to explain that further. Good rapes and bad rapes?
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, yes, if it wasn’t considered forcible, if it was simply you were raped, if it was a date rape or other kind of rape that wasn’t considered forcible, where you could demonstrate—I guess it would be up to the rape victim to demonstrate that it was—how forcible it was, you could not have access to abortion coverage as a result of the rape.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting, because we just played in the headlines a group of women, and some men, who are suing around the issue of rape in Iraq, and a videotape—
CECILE RICHARDS: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN:—was made of one woman, and her commander saying, looking at the videotape that the men made who were raping her, he didn’t feel that she had fought back hard enough.
CECILE RICHARDS: Exactly. I just saw that, that you had played it. And I think it is incredible to me that at this time in the United States of America, we are talking about going so far back, basically repealing women’s rights in a way that is just unthinkable. And again, I think it’s—as you said earlier, it’s not simply about—it’s not simply about ending Roe v. Wade, which is really the purpose of Mr. Smith and Mr. Boehner, it’s literally taking away the access to birth control in America, which is unbelievable. How did we get here?
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go on to the federal legislation—yes, there are more bills that are being weighed now in Congress.
CECILE RICHARDS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: The Congress is saying that they are focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs.
CECILE RICHARDS: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And then I want to talk about the state level and talk about states like, oh, South Dakota. Is it possible that the killing of abortion providers could be considered justifiable homicide? This is what we’re going to take on, as we continue after the break with Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Cecile Richards. She’s president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive healthcare and sex education and the country’s largest advocacy organization for women’s health and rights. Let’s talk about H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act. What would that do, Cecile Richards?
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I’m sorry, tell me—the number doesn’t—
AMY GOODMAN: H.R. 358, Protect Life Act, that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions even when necessary to save a woman’s life.
CECILE RICHARDS: Right. I apologize, I didn’t remember the number. We have—as you know, there is a raft of bills that have now been introduced in Congress, really in the House. And the concern over this bill is what—is allowing hospitals to refuse treatment, even in the case of a woman’s life who needs an abortion. And, of course, this has been—there have been massive expansions of conscience clauses and legislation to allow hospitals and even, of course, pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. And this is a concern about this bill, that it would allow, if a woman—and as you know, in some communities, you don’t have a lot of hospitals to choose from. And this would—our concern about this bill is it would allow hospitals to refuse life-saving treatment, if a woman needed an abortion, based on conscience. And again, I think this is where the leadership of the House isn’t focusing on women’s health. They are focusing on an ideological agenda, and they don’t understand how this is going to affect real women’s lives. And that’s the story that we’re trying to tell to Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: H.R. 217, the measure which has 122 co-sponsors, called the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, that would ban federal funding for other services to organizations that perform abortions? How would that affect Planned Parenthood, and what does that mean?
CECILE RICHARDS: I know, there’s so many. So, essentially, the other—one of the big goals is to prevent healthcare providers who provide an array of healthcare services—if any of the services they provide include abortions or abortion referrals, they should not be—this bill says they should not be able to get any federal funds for family planning, which, on the face of it, is ridiculous. Right now, as an example, Planned Parenthood is the biggest reproductive healthcare provider in the country. We actually—under the Title X program, which is our nation’s Family Planning Program, we provide more than a third of the clients who come in through the Title X program, we provide them family planning. So this would essentially take Planned Parenthood completely out of that system, as well as any other family planning provider that provided abortion care.
And if I could—you know, to remember, abortion is legal in this country. This is basically taking something that everyone is—that family planning clinics are providing that is a legal service and saying, “If you provide this service, you can no longer provide family planning.” The most ridiculous part about it is that, for Congressman Pence and the others who are proposing these bills, Planned Parenthood does more to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion than any organization in America. So I don’t really know where they think the millions of women who come to us and other providers are going to go for family planning anymore and what the result will be.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the state level, Cecile, to what is happening in various states. With at least 29 anti-choice governors, the battleground has shifted to the state legislatures. First, talk about what’s happening right now in South Dakota.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I mean, South Dakota is one example of a very egregious bill that speaks to the interference of anyone who was trying to terminate a pregnancy. And it’s a complicated bill, so I don’t want to get into all of the details, but it is a—what we’re seeing in South Dakota—I could list states across the country—are state legislatures who unfortunately are much in the mold now of the leadership of the House of Representatives, who, instead of focusing on the really hard and important issues of the day—about their budgets, their economy—they are using this as an opening, with the sort of the shift to the right in the leadership and in these legislatures to now try to repeal every single—every single right that women have to legal abortion. And they’re focusing, as well, on providers. And the goal is not only to make sure that women don’t have access, but to make sure that doctors are afraid to even provide legal abortions in this country. And that’s really what the South Dakota bill is about.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what is happening in Kansas, Cecile Richards.
CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I mean, there are so many things happening in Kansas, I don’t even know—I don’t even know where to begin. I mean, we have obviously—in the state of Kansas, we’ve been dealing with very bad legislation for years, for decades. So, I mean, we could talk about these specific states, but I think the important thing, just to sort of bring it back overall, is that what we are seeing—but it’s not just at the state level. I agree with you that there are a lot of problems at the state level, but we are literally seeing the federal government, the U.S. House of Representatives, trying to end birth control access in America. So, I agree that the states are where some of the most egregious state bills are, but it’s much bigger than that. And I think this is—what we are seeing around the country is this unbelievable overreach by the leadership that was elected in November, not focusing on what the people want, but in fact focusing on issues about abortion access, taking away birth control, allowing hospitals to refuse treatment, allowing pharmacists to refuse birth control. This is not what the American people voted for, and I think there’s going to be an enormous political backlash, which we’re already beginning to see at Planned Parenthood, folks coming into our clinics and saying, “I cannot believe I’ve just heard that the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to shut down Planned Parenthood.”
Ironically, the GOP– the party that will fight to the death for individual rights, gun rights, corporate personhood, and tax cuts for the rich– has jumped at the chance to squash women”s rights and harm families. What will be their next attack on American women– the country’s largest minority group? Are burkas in our future?