One thing which has long pissed me off about the christianist faction in US politics, with regard to their never-ending quest to impose their definition of "life" onto everybody else in the country, is the way they put their ideology and their theology above the actual health and lives of real, actual, living and breathing women. Their belief in a magical spirit force in a clump of nonsentient cells is important enough they they are willing to lay waste to the rights, privacy, and also the health of the women who sinfully misuse their ladyparts.
For years, the symbol that women's health activists have used to communicate this was the coathanger -- the implication that if abortion is driven underground then women will die from back-alley botched septic abortions. I always thought that was a bit over-the-top, though: too hypothetical and unlikely to carry much punch nowadays. It may have had more relevance in the '70s, when the era of illegal abortion was fresher in people's minds.
But now, if you are looking for real, actual evidence of how the radical christian right is willing to put women's lives at risk to save the spirit babies, look no further than the war on Planned Parenthood. Over the last two years, it has come under constant assault from conservative politicians, seeking to cut off its funding and force it to wither on the vine. The tactic is simple, and possibly effective: if you can kill or cripple an institution which is a major abortion provider, there will be fewer abortions. If all you care about are abortions, the math works out fine.
It is important to remember, though, that Planed Parenthood does way more than just abortions. They are a comprehensive provider of women's health services, primarily to low-income women who cannot afford to see a primary doctor or a gynecologist. Abortions are, in fact, a tiny minority of what Planned Parenthood does!
In fact, Planned Parenthood estimates that they prevent over 250,000 abortions annually, as a result of their contraceptive services preventing nearly 600,000 unintended pregnancies. Never mind the number of cases of tubo-ovarian abscesses and ectopic pregnancy they prevent by treating STDs and the number of lives they save through their cancer screening services -- particularly cervical cancer screenings.
Now, if you kill Planned Parenthood by pulling its federal funding, as Congressional Republicans tried, or by restricting its access to medicaid clients, as Indiana Republicans tried, or by burdening it with onerous and prohibitive pointless regulations, as Kansas tried, then you could possibly prevent 300,000 abortions a year. The consequence to that, however, would be that millions of women who have no other alternative would lose access to these other services, and some of them would die as a result of that.
That's not being hysterical, just simply pointing out the fact that policy decisions have consequences and some of those are what are drily euphemized in the medical literature as "increased morbidity and mortality," which is to say -- increased sickness and death. And to the true believers, the holy warriors (I won't say jihadists) of the anti-abortion movement, they are OK with those collateral human costs.
Planned Parenthood is an important provider of health care for women, particularly vulnerable women. And it's important for those of us in the health care community to stand up in its defense against the religious extremists who want to shut it down.