The most recent Muppet movie has a signature song, "Am I a Man or am I a Muppet?" In light of the aggressive attack on women's health by the Right, perhaps we should ask -- "Am I a woman or am I a puppet?" Our strings are being pulled far to the right, and many of us are fed up.
In case you have been busy doing something else, consider these recent events:
1) All of the Republican candidates have vowed to overturn Obamacare, and with it the mandatory inclusion of preventive services for women without co-pays. No matter what your opinion of abortion or even contraception, other preventive services such as breast exams, mammograms and annual exams are part of the Affordable Care Act, and none of the candidates has explained how he would cover these services, if at all.
2) The right is accusing Obama of being "anti-Catholic" for the recent regulation issued by HHS mandating that new health insurance plans "cover women's preventive services such as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible."
The background for this regulation is a report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine that recommended a list of preventive services that should be covered under the Affordable Care Act without co-pays or deductibles. The report notes that about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and about 4 of 10 of those end in abortion. Providing birth control could lower both pregnancy and abortion rates.
Should access to contraception be required, however? As reported by Media Matters, "After debating religious concerns, last Friday, HHS clarified that the regulations do exempt religious institutions, but do not exempt religiously affiliated groups that employ members of differing faiths."
Although there have been hysterical cries that the Obama administration has declared a war on religion, the truth is that religious institutions are not required to offer contraception -- only "religiously-affiliated" organizations such as a Catholic university or hospital system. These organizations may have many employees and members who are not Catholic, and the rationale for requiring them to at least offer contraception coverage is that non-Catholics should not be denied services simply because they work for an organization that is affiliated with the Catholic church.
3) In a blog I wrote for Huffington Post last May with the hyperbolic title "Wake Up Women, the Republicans want to keep you barefoot and pregnant," I noted the ways in which Republicans have been systematically attacking Planned Parenthood around the country. In at least half a dozen states, legislatures have tried to defund Planned Parenthood and prevent them from providing even breast exams and other women's health services, because some of these clinics also offer abortion services (but these are not paid for by public funds).
4) Most recently and somewhat unexpectedly, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure headquarters announced that they could no longer fund Planned Parenthood clinics for providing breast exams because Planned Parenthood was being "investigated" by Republicans in Congress, and their rules prohibit funding organizations under investigation. The real reason seems to be that a new VP at Komen is vehemently and on the record as anti-choice, and the organization has been receiving sustained attacks from the right for their grants to Planned Parenthood.
Some of the local Komen chapters are fighting back. The Connecticut chapter, while whining that the calls they were receiving were annoying and time consuming, may still continue their funding; the Denver Komen chapter has asked headquarters for an exemption to continue funding.
This is for all the anti-choice, anti-women people out there.
You can spend every minute of every day trying to force the rest of us to live by your ideology. You can go after federal funds for health care and pressure private organizations like the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to stop funding breast cancer screenings for poor women. You can try to make it impossible to get birth control.
But you know what you can't do? You can't win. You can't break us. Planned Parenthood isn't just a family of organizations. It's a movement. It's women and men of all ages who believe that health care -- including reproductive health care -- is a basic human right. We are millions strong. We are everywhere. We act, we give, and we do whatever it takes to make sure that Planned Parenthood is there for the women, men and teens who rely on them.
Know this: When you go after Planned Parenthood and the people they serve, you go after ME. I stand with Planned Parenthood. I stand with them against anyone who wants to stop women from receiving the health care they need. I stand with them today, tomorrow and for as long as I need to.
The story is obviously not over. In order to avoid puppethood, we need to pull our own strings and stand up for what we believe.
UPDATE: A top official at Komen for the Cure resigned Thursday in protests over the Planned Parenthood decision. In addition, Planned Parenthood has raised a significant amount of money in the past day in backlash over the Komen action.
UPDATE #2: As of Friday, Feb 3rd, Komen for the Cure has issued a press release saying they will continue to fund Planned Parenthood. You did it, folks! This is a victory for women everywhere.