This post was co-authored by Jamie Ruddy.
This week a few brave politicians stood up to protest the political attacks aimed squarely at women's health. Henry Waxman and Diana DeGette publicly rebuked the House and Energy Republican members for smearing Planned Parenthood by launching audits into 'misuse of federal funds.' It was in fact the Republican members themselves who are misusing public funds in launching these ideologically motivated audits. The official audits are regularly carried out by the Health and Human Services Department who consistently report that funds are spent appropriately. This follows the farcical scene of the GOP's attempted mugging of the president over the debt ceiling negotiations. Again, extreme conservatives were willing to hold the financial security of the nation hostage in order to extract the prize of defunding women's services.
As election season looms we are going to need a lot more people to show the strength to stand up against ideological attacks on services that promote women's health. Furthermore, in a healthcare system where the middle class can no longer afford to get a regular doctor's check up, non-profits such as Planned Parenthood are becoming even more essential.
And those attacks will come. In a recent profile of Michele Bachmann's improbable rise to GOP presidential candidate, Ryan Lizza details how Bachmann's earliest political actions were all linked to opposing institutions that provided abortions. The current Republican candidates seem almost giddy at naming Supreme Court justices who would add to the conservative majority on the bench. And Mitt Romney once a pro-choice governor from Massachusetts, now a professional weathervane of conservative opinion as soon as someone tells him what it is -- caved to conservative pressure to defund Planned Parenthood and other health providers. The National Review goes as far as to declare that defunding Planned Parenthood is a litmus test for any would-be GOP president.
But this issue goes well beyond just the hot-button issue of abortion. Just as conservatives insist on teaching creationism alongside science-based explanations like evolution, so too are the same activists trying to politicize the classroom. It seems that they are determined that if the facts don't fit their prejudices, it's easier to change the facts. On the agenda: bring back abstinence-only education that doesn't have any effect on teen pregnancies or STDs, re-educating those of a minority sexual orientation (is having your wife run for president the best free infomercial or what?), and what we don't know should be as scary as what we do -- all of the GOP candidates are vague on details and extremist on rhetoric.
Well, if conservatives want to make women's health an issue, let's make it an issue. It's time that progressives and habitually apolitical citizens tell their stories about sexual health education in school, about when they turned to Planned Parenthood because there was no place left to go, or they simply needed access to information that was science-based and unbiased. If evangelical right-wing groups pound sidewalks, spread misinformation, and make large campaign contributions for those who would attack Planned Parenthood as a priority, then those who believe in truth, choice and access for all must fight back.