Retro thinking: Republican candidates sell out family planning

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Despite the differences they've exhibited in their many debates, the Republican presidential contenders are united on one issue, the ouster of President Barack Obama.

Now, apparently, there's another -- stripping federal funding from Planned Parenthood, a 95-year-old nonprofit that has educated millions about family planning and provided health services to low-income women including breast exams, pap smears and low-cost contraception. By law, its federal funding, which began under President Nixon, cannot be used to subsidize abortions.

It is hard to underplay the value of birth control and preventive health care services in a society with an underclass mired in poverty. Yet the Republican candidates, while vying last week in Iowa for the affections of social conservatives, did a pretty good job of it.

In a story by the Post-Gazette's James O'Toole on a Des Moines event last Wednesday, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said she will be "the most pro-life president you have ever had in the nation's history ... Under my administration, Planned Parenthood will be 100 percent defunded."

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said he was proud to sign a state budget that ended funding for Planned Parenthood, after which 12 of its clinics closed. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the party's latest front-runner, and former Sen. Rick Santorum chimed in with their own opposition to Planned Parenthood funding.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who did not attend the event sponsored by activist group Citizens United, has been on both sides of Planned Parenthood. In 2002 he sought the group's endorsement for governor while pledging support for increased access to the morning-after pill, late-term abortions when the woman's life is at risk, laws protecting safe abortion clinics and the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade abortion rights decision.

Now Mr. Romney wants to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood and the Title X family planning program and he denounces Roe vs. Wade. A spokeswoman said he supports "a Human Life Amendment that overturns Roe vs. Wade and sends the issue back to the states." Just add it to the list of Romney flip-flops.

Republican candidates pay a lot of lip service to the virtues of independence and self-determination, while taking away tools for doing that from women and men served by Planned Parenthood. It doesn't add up.

If politicians really want people to plan their futures, limit the size of families and find their way through this tough economy, they should support, not subvert, the mission of Planned Parenthood.


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