I have to admit something – I’ve taken to reading The Federalist (no, not the papers – they are a much higher caliber of political writing that I’d proudly recommend) on a semi-regular basis, for a couple reasons. First, I feel I should at least give the other side a fair shake, so I toggle between Mother Jones, Paul Krugman, and The Federalist with some regularity. Second, because they frequently outline well-reasoned conservative arguments for apparently liberal causes, like opposing racist immigration restrictions or reducing police brutality. But I also read for the occasional gem like this:
“If Democrats in Congress agreed to defund Planned Parenthood in exchange for quadrupling the amount of federal dollars spent on health care for women, the pro-life members of Congress would leap to take that deal.”
It’s a gem, a beautiful hypothetical diamond in the rought of a fairly straightforward wrong-headed defund Planned Parenthood piece, for a couple of reasons, the first sarcastic, the other not. First, in my opinion, it reveals an enormous naivete. Yes, that’s what you would expect pro-life members of Congress to do. But pro-life congresspersons are far more pro-bank than they are pro-baby, and I doubt they would actually ‘leap’ at such an opportunity. But I also think it’s a gem because if it was actually attempted on even a small scale, quadrupling only the money going to Planned Parenthood, the fallout would be truly enlightening, because of the conundrum it would create for both parties.
The moral cost to Republicans would be clear: They are supposed to be pro-life, and to believe that zygotes are humans and that Planned Parenthood is complicit in 300,000 murders annually. Quadrupling the money that goes to Planned Parenthood would cost only $2 billion – surely a great price for saving, or at least seeking justice for, 300,000 lives. But the whole idea would be anathema to so many of them, with their TEA Party beliefs about the deficit, that I can’t imagine it going through (indeed, if it did, it would dramatically increase my respect for the Republican Party).
The conundrum for Democrats, however, would be no less difficult: two of their key pro-Planned Parenthood claims are that they are defending women’s health, and that due to the Hyde Ammendment, Federal money doesn’t subsidize abortions, anyway. Two billion dollars spent on women’s health would inarguably do more for women than a quarter that ammount going to Planned Parenthood. And if current Planned Parenthood funding is not subsidizing abortion, then it shouldn’t restrict women’s access to choice to cut off their funding – merely diminish their other services (a shortfall that would be compensated easily by two billion dollars worth of new clinics). But I still don’t think Democrats would go for it, because it would weaken (and enrage) an institution that is key to Democratic election hopes, providing dedicatd volunteers and millions in spending on Democratic candidates.
In other words, proposing such a bill would hurt both parties, so I doubt either side would do it. But if someone could make that debate happen, it would be a net win for America. Either one or both of the parties would flinch, providing a useful instruction in civics and hopefully reduce abortion/contraception as a wedge issue (since people would see that their parties are not as dedicated to it as they thought), or they would not flinch, in which case the US would get an overall better policy (at the expense of a venerable institution, but the furtherment of the public good over well-connected institutions is a rare feat in Democracy, much to be wished for), and the abortion debate, no longer involving the tax dollars of abortion opponents even tangentially, would likely lose much of its rancor.