10/14/2011 09:35 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2011

Abortion Fight Seen in Miniature in Virginia

As the Virginia Board of Health enacts sweeping measures to create incredibly strict controls on abortion providers in the state, women in Virginia will once again come in second to the ideological battles of the pro-life movement.

Virginia cannot continue to put women's health needs and privacy rights behind the very polarized beliefs of the anti-abortion faction; it's not fair to women and it over-prioritizes what is essentially a religious movement. And it's not just Virginia -- the rest of the United States has been fighting women's health rights with equal fervor, seen most clearly through the seemingly universal attack on Planned Parenthood and its services in this country.

Currently, 18 states are embroiled in legal battles against Planned Parenthood, but there is still a bigger fight against the Women's Health Group: an ideological one on the national level. In April, Senator John Kyl claimed that "90 percent" of what Planned Parenthood does is abortions." Of course, if you're going by the facts, it's less than three percent of what it does. How did Senator Kyl explain his 87-point mistake? His staff clarified that his number-crunching "was not intended to be a factual statement." So he lied. Because Planned Parenthood does far more than abortions; in some of America's poorest communities, Planned Parenthood is a paramount resource in helping limit sexually transmitted diseases, the spread of HIV/AIDS, early treatment of breast cancer, and in providing birth control so that abortions are not necessary. Without Planned Parenthood, the struggle some communities face to provide reproductive health care would be far greater.

So if you want to defund Planned Parenthood, that's fine, but you really ought to explain your argument with real numbers and actual evidence, not false generalizations, because to do so is not only to put women's health, especially poor and urban women's health, at a huge disadvantage, but also to create an environment in which there is a huge spread of misinformation about the services that are paramount to their health care.

The national, ideological smear campaign on Planned Parenthood reveals a damaging attitude in America and, particularly, amongst lawmakers. First, it shows a notable commitment to squash abortion rights even when the fight is futile, since abortion is practically illegal anyways. Second, though, and perhaps more notably, it reveals that the priorities of the national and state legislators are still those of an America of hundreds of years ago. These lawmakers are attacking health care for the poorest Americans, the most centrally urban Americans, and, often, the most diverse Americans, both men and women, since the services provided by Planned Parenthood are available for both sexes. It cements the legislators' priorities as that of their own makeup: overwhelmingly male, white, and wealthy. But gender has a lot to do with it as well. Consider this: until 1976, women in Missouri who need abortions had to get their husband's approval in order to participate in the medical procedure. You would never see that for a man's medical procedure, no matter how drastic. It is clear that the fight against abortion rights has as much to do with American values about gender and marital values as it does with the ideological and religious fight.

Still, no matter the cause, the organized attack on Planned Parenthood and women's abortion rights in Virginia and the rest of the nation continues. And if it is successful, as it has been for much of the last decade or so, women's privacy rights and reproductive, non-abortion, health services risk being slashed.

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