The tide is rising against Planned Parenthood. As more videos roll out from the Center for Medical Progress and the organization thrashes in response, there have been many calls to strip PP of its federal funding. However, PP has many powerful friends in politics and the media and, quite frankly, is a well-entrenched medical provider who provides millions of dollars worth of needed services every day. Taking its money away won’t be easy.A serious proposal to defund Planned Parenthood should have a generous political concession to help prove that pro-lifers don’t want to leave women’s healthcare out to dry.
Many have noted that there is a patchwork of alternatives to Planned Parenthood, but few have the branding or the accessibility that PP has. It’s great that there’s an awesome, holistic, natural pro-life center in Columbus, but that leaves everyone outside of Columbus in the lurch. And I love Federally Qualified Health Centers (full disclosure: I work in one), but I’ve also been a patient at one that sucked and went under when it couldn’t pay its bills. Crisis pregnancy centers do great work. But there’s a big swath of medical services they don’t provide. There’s a solution: finish expanding Medicaid.
There are 22 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, which means that tens or hundreds of thousands of people in those states can’t get coverage. In most of these states, you have to be a child, pregnant, or disabled in order to get Medicaid– and even then, your monthly income still has to be below a certain level. This means that childless adults who don’t get health insurance through their job have to spend hundreds of dollars every month for their own insurance– and for those who can’t find a job or can only find part-time work, this cuts them off from getting insurance. Accepting Medicaid expansion would allow many of these adults to get insurance.
I’ve seen in my own practice in Baltimore City how a health crisis precipitated someone’s departure from the workforce. Without insurance, they weren’t able to get the treatments they needed to get back to work and they meandered from the emergency room to the homeless shelter and then back again. Once Maryland expanded Medicaid, they were able to get the care they needed and are back in the workforce again. Without some sort of way to cover these people (which includes working moms who would make up much of Planned Parenthood’s clientele in many states), they’ll be stuck in poor health.
One of the constant refrains from left-leaning pro-lifers is that conservatives don’t care about babies once they leave the womb. I will grant that there may be a handful of such people, but I’ve never met one. Most, however, have principled objections to the massive state-run programs that give people food, shelter, and healthcare without actually trying to give poor people wealth or whatever it is they need to improve their situation. At this point in history, though, there aren’t very many good conservative proposals to Medicaid for health insurance that don’t leave poor women in the lurch. Supporting a compromise that expands Medicaid in exchange for defunding Planned Parenthood– or even expanding abortion restrictions nationwide– could help the folks who have principled objections to not leaving health for the poor to the vagaries of the free market support anti-abortion measures.
I know that for many conservative pro-lifers, the idea of fully expanding Medicaid is icky. Giving people government-subsidized healthcare– especially people who are working and earn too much to currently qualify for it but can’t afford the massively bloated health insurance products floating around out there– sounds like a giant capitulation to the Left and a bad idea for state budgets. Not to mention that replacing the services that Planned Parenthood provides means supporting government-subsidized birth control.
But expanding Medicaid is cheaper than sacrificing human lives.
There are a lot of people who say that abortion is the “single issue” that they vote on. I totally respect that opinion. If that’s really the case, these single-issue voters should be willing to accept a Medicaid expansion in order to shut down the nation’s largest abortion provider. It may cost us in higher taxes. Are you willing to pay higher taxes in order to protect more human lives?
As far the contraception issue goes– Medicaid already pays for birth control. There may not be full agreement about whether or not hormonal contraception is abortifacient among principled pro-lifers, but we are in full agreement that abortion is a moral evil and we should be willing to support it. What’s more, Medicaid also allows women to access all kinds of other health services that very well might keep them healthier and get them off other harmful substances when they do have their next child. For what it’s worth, I’ve treated plenty of women on Medicaid who tried hormonal birth control and didn’t care for it, so we got to discuss Natural Family Planning (NFP). More doctors need to be willing to take these patients and have frank, informed discussions about fertility with their them. Expanding Medicaid could provide these women with more opportunities to see providers who will include NFP in the family planning options they offer their patients.
I harbor no illusions that expanding Medicaid and contraception access magically makes the demand for abortion go away. I also don’t think such a move would satisfy a number of pro-abortion extremists. We don’t have to satisfy them, though– we just have to convince any moderate holdouts who would like to see Medicaid expanded. There are lots of pro-life feminists who fit this bill, so why not offer them an olive branch?
Medicaid isn’t perfect. Expanding it isn’t cheap. However, the current political moment is ripe for action and a serious proposal to defund Planned Parenthood should have a generous political concession to help prove that pro-lifers don’t want to leave women’s healthcare out to dry. Since expanding Medicaid for low-income women is the simplest and fastest way to guarantee access to needed health services, let’s do it for the sake of the unborn and their families.
Image courtesy of Mark Hawk.