The incivility by the Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as they attacked Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., if not all thinking women, this past Tuesday, September 29, 2015, was shameless. It was also embarrassing to see these Republican elected representatives, sitting members of Congress, thoughtlessly haranguing Ms. Richards because she, and her organization, seek to provide reproductive healthcare to women who might otherwise be unable to afford it. This right-wing anti-abortion mania, and their belief that Planned Parenthood is killing babies and selling their parts, is sadly indicative of the collective delusion shared by many who think of themselves as contemporary conservatives.
Spiking interest in this subject was the full frontal rant by GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s calling on her Democratic opponents to watch a non-existing film of Planned Parenthood with a “fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” Apparently, the film is of a miscarriage and not a Planned Parenthood brain harvest, but Carly is not much for correcting herself.
Carly was merely trying to extend the attack on Planned Parenthood after a series of illegally and surreptitiously recorded videos made by anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, the founder of the (misleadingly named) Center for Medical Progress, purportedly showed Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal tissue, which is against the law. Carly, like all true Republicans believers, was not interested in the fact that both Daleiden and his videos had been discredited. Daleiden is now the subject to two lawsuits which will hopefully force into the open his fraudulent and outrageous attack on Planned Parenthood.
Nonetheless, Daleiden and Carly managed to stoke congressional Republicans, who are also inclined to disregard inconvenient facts and actually wanted to close down the entire government rather than provide continued federal funding to Planned Parenthood. To fully inform their colleagues about “selling baby parts” and “baby brain harvesting,” GOP members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee provided five hours of political theater for their colleagues and followers, using Ms. Richards as their foil, as they all but accused her of killing unborn babies to sell their parts and getting paid way too much money by Planned Parenthood for all her organization’s unestablished wrongdoing imagined by Republicans. The men of the Oversight Committee, in particular, wanted to see Cecile Richards in the fetus position at the witness table, her heart beating and legs kicking, as they kept her there for hours on end to harvest her brain. But Cecile Richards was not willing to play the role they wanted in this sham drama. (A few sane Republicans and the Democrats also stopped the wingnuts from shutting down the government over this bogus issue.)
Actually, a truth-seeking congressional committee would have called Carly Fiorina as a witness to ask where she had seen the remarkable video she told America she had viewed. Republicans knew Carly had stretched the truth. Also that committee would have called David Daleiden, and all those at the Center for Medical Progress involved in producing and distributing the videos they claim show Planned Parenthood breaking the law. Of course, that did not happen because the committee was not interested in the truth.
Since the 1973 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, abortion is not only legal but a constitutionally protected right. It is therefore ironic that the political party that wants to keep government out of everyone’s life, the Republicans, have spent decades trying to get the government in everyone woman’s uterus to regulate what they can and cannot do with their reproductive organs. The political party that wants to protect unborn children because of their belief in the sanctity of life, again the Republicans, in further irony fully supports and encourages capital punishment, most recently applauding the execution of the first woman in Georgia in seven decades, notwithstanding a plea from the Pope to spare her.
Watching, as I did periodically during the day, the protracted anti-abortion hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the false or distorted attacks on Planned Parenthood, I thought about where I first learned of the work of this organization. While I have long since forgotten the substance of the conversation, I have not forgotten first hearing of Planned Parenthood from the wife of Senator Barry Goldwater, Peggy Johnson Goldwater. She helped organize the chapter in Phoenix, with the encouragement and support of her husband, long considered a patron saint of modern conservatism. As I witnessed the fact-free questioning of Ms. Richards, often cutting her off before she could answer a question based on a bogus premise, I realized that Planned Parenthood would survive this latest attack by the anti-abortion zealots who so dearly want to deny a constitutional right to women, and their right to choose, their right to not give birth. It would survive for the attacks are conspicuously baseless. There is no evidence whatsoever that Planned Parenthood is doing anything illegal, notwithstanding the charges of the zealots to the contrary.
The disdain with which so many of the men on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee treated Ms. Richards because of her pro-choice views was striking, as is the narrow-minded stupidity of anyone who thinks it wrong to hold such views. Every First Lady of this country since the 1972 ruling in Roe has supported the right of all women who make the unimaginably difficult decision to have an abortion: Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Roslyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. Today, according to Gallup, the more conservative of our legitimate national polling organizations, a majority of all Americans are pro-choice. And notwithstanding the GOP attack on women and Planned Parenthood, Americans support the funding of the organization by a two-to-one margin.
As for Congress, thanks to Republicans, it never has it been viewed less favorably, and while politicians are never thought of well, Republicans rank much lower than Democrats. After the broadside on women this last week, the GOP should sink even further. They’ve earned more disfavor.