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Caterpillars, Cocoons And Unplanned Parenthood

Matt Pressberg |
April 6, 2012 | 3:14 a.m. PDT

Staff Columnist

Cartoon by DonkeyHotey. (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Cartoon by DonkeyHotey. (Flickr/Creative Commons)
The Republican Party has been accused by many of being trapped in a bubble. It might be more apropos to call it a cocoon.

When asked on Bloomberg TV yesterday if the Republicans were fighting a “war on women,” wonderfully named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said, “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars.”

Um, no.

Reince Priebus is from Wisconsin, which has seemingly been the center of the Republican world this week.

Willard Mitt Romney won the state’s primary on Tuesday, a symbolic victory in the Midwest that all but ices his nomination. Wisconsin’s highest-profile politician and a potential Romney VP, Rep. Paul Ryan, is author of the “Path to Prosperity” budget plan, which has found awkwardly enthusaistic support from Romney, and which will be a central issue in the general election campaign to the rare delight of both parties.

Willard called Ryan’s budget “marvelous,” which of course allowed President Obama to hit Romney for being out of touch on two points: supporting the “right-wing social engineering” (Newt’s words) of the Ryan plan, and using the word "marvelous."

Also in Wisconsin, this past Sunday, a homemade bomb went off at a Planned Parenthood clinic. This may have been the first well-publicized literal attack on Planned Parenthood during the primary season, but the entire premise of reproductive rights, with Planned Parenthood as the symbolic torchbearer, has long been firmly in the crosshairs of the Republican Party.

Reince and Repeat may not believe his party has started a war on women, but proposing legislation that would punish a group of people without hearing from them has been a casus belli in this land before. I wonder what the Real Tea Party Patriots (of 1773) would have thought of a congressional birth control panel featuring five men.

As someone who both loves birth control and hates domestic terrorism and the views of conservative men on sex, I am throwing my support behind women in this war.

Republicans have decided to make Planned Parenthood the branded boogeyman representing birth control and reproductive choice. Therefore, I propose that if they want to attack Planned Parenthood, they should also have to defend unplanned parenthood.

Convincing any logical person to practice abstinence is not happening—the value proposition of sex now destroys any unlikely potential celestial rewards later. We should also not rush people into ill-suited marriages, or let their sexual frustration build up to where they make this important decision while under pressure and acting irrationally, a la fast food at 3 a.m. on an empty stomach. If we want a society where people pick a life partner and/or have children when they feel ready to take on the responsibility rather than have the responsibility fall on them, we'll have to deal with one that has premarital sex, contraception, planned relationships and yes, planned parenthood.

Contrary to popular opinion, we pro-choicers don’t cackle with glee at photographs of aborted fetuses, sharing them with George Clooney at a San Francisco organic fair trade street festival. We just realize that life doesn’t end at infancy.

There are plenty of kids in this country born to a misinformed mother who never wanted them and a father who was essentially just a sperm donor. They often don’t get enough to eat (and what they do is not helping their health), attend failing schools and have to navigate a gauntlet of bad influences every day. They are part of our American family and we can’t just let them die, but resources are tight now and cities are cutting back. Many of them don’t make it. That’s much more heartbreaking to me than a discarded embryo that never had the consciousness to know it was alive.

Making things even worse is the fact that many of the same people who endorse this “you break it, you buy it” approach to parenthood want to systematically dismantle any safety net these unwanted children have. The Ryan budget slashes Medicaid and leaves almost no room for programs that might help low-income children, while somehow managing to give tax cuts to millionaires. Apparently, the pro-life position does not cover the entire life.

The best defense for Planned Parenthood (the figurehead) and planned parenthood (the larger concept) is to go on the offensive against unplanned parenthood. That's as easy as explaining what it means.

Unplanned parenthood means teenage hormones becoming teenage mothers. It means rapists having the power to choose the mothers of their children. It means professional women losing their jobs and/or suffering career-changing financial shock trauma because they committed an unforgivable sin: wanting to have sex.

Jewish World Watch's Janice Kamenir-Reznik, who has dedicated her life to work with some of the most at-risk women in Central Africa, stressed to me when we spoke earlier this year the critical importance of economically empowering women in building a more prosperous, stable and just society. Nothing in history has proven to empower women more than acquiring control of their own wombs.

To deny that a true “path to prosperity” must include reproductive rights, one really must be living in a cocoon.


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