Republicans try to shift voter focus by cutting funding to organization
From slavery to gay marriage, hot-button issues have been used by politicians to divide and distract American voters. For Reagan in 1980, the issue was states rights. For Bob Dole in 1996, affirmative action was used to turn out white voters who disagreed with Clinton's progressive views regarding the issue. For George W. Bush in 2004, issues of terrorism and gay marriage helped get conservative voters to support Bush's campaign.
While each of these wedge issues is worth noting, the issue of abortion rights is one that divides and distracts like no other. Few understand the power of this issue better than Republican lawmakers who have the unique ability to make any debate about abortion rights. This past Friday in a debate about the nation's economy and discretionary spending, Republican lawmakers decided to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides family planning services to millions of Americans each year. Did the Republican-controlled house decide to cut Planned Parenthood's funding because it accounts for a large portion of the federal government's budget? Did they decide to cut the organization's funding because Planned Parenthood was violating federal law and providing illegal services to Americans? Of course not. Republican lawmakers cut funding for Planned Parenthood because they understand how wedge issues work.
Elected officials know that they are being dishonest when they claim that Planned Parenthood has used taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. They know they are being dishonest when they claim that supporters of Planned Parenthood are nothing more than baby killers who have no regard for the sanctity of human life. Anyone who knows anything about abortion politics knows that the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, forbids the use of federal dollars for abortion services. In voting to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, Republicans know that they are doing nothing to decrease the number of abortions that take place in this country. On the contrary, their actions may very well block access to those measures that help prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place, including access to affordable contraceptives and comprehensive sex education.
See, it's easy to paint Planned Parenthood as a cavalier group of abortion lovers whose primary goal is to provide as many abortions as is humanly possible. The problem with this depiction is that it's just not true. Ninety percent of what Planned Parenthood does is done to ensure that women never have to decide whether to have an abortion or not. Sure, Republicans may score political points with their base by making a debate about the deficit a debate about abortions, but I refuse to be distracted by their use of this wedge issue in this very important debate.
I stand with Planned Parenthood and you should too.