What is worth celebrating, however, is the instantaneous and spontaneous and powerful reaction of the blogosphere and social media that first spotlighted Komen's decision, splattered it from coast to coast, drove a hugely successful fund-raising effort for Planned Parenthood and—assisted by Komen's incompetent management of the crisis it had created—permanently damaged the foundation's brand, bringing to light information that few Americans have previously heard. That is a victory. And it shouldn't be nay-said.
But while quaffing the bubbly, that victory should be recognized for what it is: self-defense. Together, those of us who believe in ensuring that women without means can get basic and preventive health care as well as exercise their reproductive rights, fought what amounted to a rearguard action, struggling to hang onto ground gained long ago. It's not unlike other struggles in other arenas, like those we engage in these days to hang onto the gains of the New Deal and Great Society while right-wing forces do their damnedest to dismantle them. But what we need is both self-defense and offense.
What we've witnessed and participated in during the past two days has been a skirmish in an on-going war with relentless, ruthless foes. This was not an isolated event but a line item on the agenda of a right wing movement determined to return us to the way things were. For the record, those weren't the good old days.
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Look at the attacks on Planned Parenthood in the past year. Just one February ago, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence's "Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act," which, among other things, would have defunded Planned Parenthood, passed the House of Representatives. Just seven Republicans voted against it. Eleven Democrats voted for it. Given that the bill would have completely eliminated the National Family Planning Program (Title X), we were fortunate that it crashed in the Senate.
But that failure did not stop state actions. Indiana enacted legislation prohibiting agencies that provide abortion from receiving any funding through the state, including Medicaid. Wisconsin also adopted a provision barring agencies that provide abortion services or referrals from receiving funding through the state. North Carolina adopted a budgetary provision that specifically bans Planned Parenthood from obtaining funding, including Medicaid, through the state. New Hampshire did not renew its contract through which the Planned Parenthood affiliate in the state received federal Title X funds.
Kansas passed a law which includes provision that limits the distribution of Title X funds to health departments, hospitals and community health centers. Other types of family planning providers are not eligible, which includes Planned Parenthood. Texas now gives preference to health departments, community health centers and hospitals in the distribution of family planning funds, including Title X funds. Other family planning providers, like Planned Parenthood, can receive funding if there is any money left to distribute.
Implementation of some of these laws and provisions are being held up while the courts look at them. Some are in effect already. And we can expect more to come.
So, clearly, self-defense is crucial. But we need offense as well.
• One place for that is the upcoming elections. We need to keep more of these reactionary bullies from getting elected, which means fighting hard in down-ticket races.
• We need an aggressive building of local and statewide grassroots political organizations, with heavy attention paid toward creating strong public education capabilities.
• We should focus outside the courts on educating and organizing our forces in state legislatures and in local communities. Key efforts should be directed at pushing back so-called TRAP laws that target abortion providers, putting up obstacles for women to exercise their legal rights.
• That education should seek to pre-empt the persistent attacks that restrict availability of birth control.
• A vigorous effort should be made wherever locally possible to crush abstinence-only sex education, which amounts in many cases to no education at all.
• Reproductive health care and services should be prevented from being distorted by political ideology.
• We should found new women's health-care clinics across the nation. The vast majority of counties nationwide have no abortion provider. South Dakota has a single one and it is only served by doctors from out of state. We need to find funding for additional clinics and men and women trained and brave enough to staff them. No woman should have to drive hundreds of miles to a clinic.
• A progressive reproductive choice agenda, as Dawn Johnsen has noted, should support policies that support healthy pregnancies, ensure that women of all ages are equipped with knowledge about their life-altering decisions. Healthy pregnancies require universal health care, the availability of affordable child care, paid family leave and other workplace support.
These are no easy tasks individually. Collectively, they are daunting. But being on the offense is always more difficult than merely holding off retreats from what's already been attained. Moving forward is key to the nation and world we progressives seek to live in. And that always always always requires fighting for more than we've already got.