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As the uncertainty of the very real-life drama about the budget stalemate and threatened shutdown of the federal government drags on, there is one thing you can count on. Every single major media outlet has gotten the story about riders wrong.

Written by Jodi Jacobson for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

As the uncertainty of the very real-life drama about the budget stalemate and threatened shutdown of the federal government drags on, there is one thing you can count on.

Every single major media outlet has gotten the story about riders wrong.

Here is a fact: The GOP and Tea Party want to defund Planned Parenthood. It's one of the primary targets and sticking points remaining in the ongoing budget talks.

Another fact: Despite GOP talking points, this is not about abortion. The GOP/Tea Party proposal would bar Planned Parenthood from being reimbursed by any federal  health program like Medicaid for providing primary and preventive health  services including birth control, breast and cervical cancer  screenings, and STI testing and treatment, including HIV testing.

This is not a hard concept and, again, it is verifiable fact.

But you might not know this because virtually every single major media outlet continues like synchronized broken records that this is about abortion and funding for abortion.

Today, for example, the widely admired Ezra Klein wrote the following about the "three elements" of the budget debate:

Here are the three elements:

1) the quantity of cuts, which most observers expect to fall between  $33 billion and $40 billion when added to the $10 billion in cuts that  have already passed;

2) the location of the cuts, which Republicans hope to concentrate in  the 12 percent of the budget known as non-discretionary defense  spending, and which Democrats want to spread more widely across the  federal budget;

3) the policy riders House Republicans attached to H.R.1, and in particular, the riders  relating to abortion and the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts  to regulate carbon.

He then went on to say:

From talking to people involved in the negotiations, I’d say it’s a  safe bet that the final deal will include about $35 billion in total  cuts, a lot of which will come from non-defense discretionary spending  but a fair amount of which won’t, and some sort of policy rider wherein  Planned Parenthood can’t use the federal money it gets for abortions,  but it can still receive federal money. This would be similar to the deal we saw on abortion funding in the health-care law.

If such a policy rider is written, it is a testament to the level of absurdity at which our political system has arrived.  Because Planned Parenthood does not get federal funding for abortion care, and therefore does not curently use federal funding for abortion care. None. It can't use federal funding for abortions now, so writing a policy to that effect would be mere theater.  Comparing this to the "deal we saw" in the health care law also misrepresents what happened under health reform regarding reproductive health care and abortion, but that is another article altogether.

The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, conditions to which of course a large number of Tea Party, GOP and far right anti-choicers also object, but that also is a different article.

Similarly, three male authors of a Post Politics article in  the Washington Post also conflated federal funding for Planned Parenthood's primary preventive care with federal funding for abortion, which again, it does not recieve, and mixed this issue in with the rider now contained in the "stopgap bill" passed by Republicans that includes a prohibition on the use by the District of Columbia of its own funds to provide abortions for poor women. 

The New York Times and NPR did no better.  Today, the NYT's Michael Shear wrote that the budget stalemate continued over "ideological disputes over abortion financing..." and several NPR reporters used virtually the same phrasing throughout the day.

Some reporters did their homework and wrote accurate pieces.  Among them were Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly and Kevin Drum of Mother Jones.

Why is getting this right so important?  By parroting the talking points of the extreme right wing, major media outlets are reinforcing a series of lies about care provided to poor and low-income women in this country and in doing so, escalating the war on women's health.  Not only is this morally and ethically wrong, it is also costly, economically and in terms of the lives and health of real people who struggle every day for economic security and good health.  You only need to read Andrea Grimes recent story about seeking alternatives to Planned Parenthood in Texas to know what the landscape would look like should Planned Parenthood be defunded over the right-wing's budget tantrum.

So for my esteemed colleagues in the media and for all of us, here are the facts about this extreme proposal:  

The Pence amendment, from which the rider originated, would cut off preventive health care for millions of women who need it the most by preventing Planned Parenthood health centers from providing 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. Planned Parenthood serves three million people served in their health centers each year, and two million of those participate in some federal health program.

More than 90 percent of the health care provided by Planned Parenthood 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.  The funding that PPFA receives from the federal government goes toward this basic care, and accounts for roughly one-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, 73 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. 

For the sake of these women and their families, the truth deserves to be told by every responsible journalist.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Tipped and Rec'd for Sourcing. Finally. (0+ / 0-)

      In almost all the discussions here at dk, we could help people fight these fights by giving them resources and pointing them to the right hot spots.  (Think of how the Tea Party (mis)used this during the health care reform debate.  Senator, do you know what's on line 22 of page 849 of this bill? Well I do. followed by incoherent, red-faced rant based on complete misunderstanding of or mischaracterization of the bill language.)

      I've been looking for a list of the House Riders trying to track down the language of the Planned Parenthood language and DC language to compare it to HF 3 language.  

      Didn't find that list til I got here.  Thanks.

      We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

      by Into The Woods on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 12:23:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is there nothing they will not (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    appledown, BYw

    try to screw up ?

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 09:28:19 AM PDT

  •  Prevention is so necessary-GOP morons. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar." Abraham Lincoln

    by appledown on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 09:47:33 AM PDT

  •  showing my ignorance (0+ / 0-)

    The birth control issue does not seem like a big deal. You can go to virtually any pharmacy and get birth control pills and  they accept government programs.

    Don't have a pharmacy nearby (not likely as there are over 50,000 of them) and can get them from a mail order pharmacy i suppose.

    Am i missing something where PP is often the only possible practical provider?

    •  Prescription (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Into The Woods

      Birth control pills are, for now, by prescription only. And you need to have a pelvic exam to get a prescription. PP charges on a sliding scale for a GYN exam, and provides pills or a prescription (also on a sliding scale). See this piece for more on how hard it is to get a low cost pelvic exam that ISN'T provided by Planned Parenthood.

  •  HR 1 and List of Policy Riders Originally in HR 1 (0+ / 0-)

    HR 1 and List of Policy Riders Originally in HR 1

    OMB Watch Listing of Original HR 1 Policy Riders.

    HR 1 Text (Easy Print Format)

    Problem is, we don't have any of the amendments to bring it into the form currently agreed to or showing remaining differences of position.

    What we'd like and lack are a side-by-side comparison, side-by-side comparison summary, and side-by-side fiscal analysis.

    You get that at some level in most State negotiations during a conference committee where the House and Senate bills are reconciled.

    US Congress, especially now days.  Not so much.

    HT RH Reality Check diary,  Ezra Klein and OMB Watch.

    We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

    by Into The Woods on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 12:24:44 PM PDT

  •  This is so aggravating to me... (0+ / 0-)
    It can't use federal funding for abortions now, so writing a policy to that effect would be mere theater.  

    Did Ezra know this? If not, he should've done his homework! If this is pointed out and hammered time and again, it would be seen as theater by those opposing a budget based on this absurdity.

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