DOUG ROSS: How conservatives could fight Planned Parenthood

2014-06-14T20:15:00Z DOUG ROSS: How conservatives could fight Planned ParenthoodDoug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Social conservatives and Planned Parenthood have clashed for decades, especially in Indiana. The tactics have included limiting access to Planned Parenthood services and cutting off government funding.

Could other approaches be more effective?

When he was in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mike Pence — now Indiana's governor — threatened to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood.

In the ultra-conservative Indiana General Assembly, the push has been to put an increasing number of restrictions on access to Planned Parenthood's services. State Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, even vowed to make Indiana the most pro-life state in the nation.

A federal lawsuit thwarted Indiana's attempt to withhold Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood's non-abortion services.

When people talk about the Republican Party's so-called war on women, Planned Parenthood is Ground Zero. Exhibit A. The primary target.

Planned Parenthood owns clinics, including one in Merrillville, where abortions are performed.

That's one small aspect of what Planned Parenthood does, but it's the most commonly understood part. And Planned Parenthood is reviled by conservatives.

Don't like abortions? Support prevention. Separate emotions from public policy, and promoting birth control is the practical choice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the ready availability of birth control one of the 10 biggest public health advances of the 20th century. 

But then many conservatives hate the CDC, too.

So what happens when conservatives attack Planned Parenthood outright, the way Indiana has done? Private financial support for Planned Parenthood soars from outraged liberals and moderates.

Betty Cockrum, who heads Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, visited Monday with The Times Editorial Board to talk about these issues.

The same day, a Guttmacher Institute report showed the number of abortions is at its lowest level since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.

Guttmacher noted the total number of pregnancies was declining. That's not such a bad thing. 

Don't like government spending? Medicaid coverage pays for about half of births, costing taxpayers about $500 million annually.

So what's the primary weapon conservatives could use against Planned Parenthood? 

So what could social conservatives use for a new strategy to fight Planned Parenthood? Ironically, it's the Affordable Care Act, which conservatives despise.

The Affordable Care Act provides federal funding for services provided to the low-income patients Planned Parenthood sees. That's not just women; 9 percent now are males seeking care for sexually transmitted diseases and testicular cancer.

Cockrum's organization covers Kentucky as well as Indiana. Kentucky expanded Medicaid under the ACA, and Indiana has fought it tooth and nail.

Increase Medicaid funding, and Planned Parenthood could suddenly have a lot more competition from other providers.

"It's an absolute reason to celebrate, the preventive measures that were included in the ACA, and birth control with no co-pay. What does that do to Planned Parenthood's business model?," Cockrum said.

That should give conservatives plenty to think about.

Keep the extremists' mouths shut, and spontaneous giving to Planned Parenthood will dry up. Expand Medicaid under the ACA, and Planned Parenthood's finances will suffer.

Which do conservatives despise most?

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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