Pence amendment masks dangers of Republican budget

By Alex Bonus |

Opinion G logoInstead of meaningful change, our country’s leaders have turned an economic debate into an ideological war over abortion.

Instead of reporting the real dangers of Republican budget cuts, our nation’s media have enflamed emotions on a burnt and withered argument.

Instead of diving into the heart of these issues, we were deceived by a flawless red herring.

On Feb. 18, the House passed a budget amendment proposed by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., that would cut federal funding to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The largest family planning organization in the United States, Planned Parenthood provides services including sexual education, contraception, cancer screenings and pregnancy testing.

But because abortions make up a meager 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services and because federal funding of abortion is illegal, Pence believes we should defund the program altogether.

“I believe that ending an innocent human life is morally wrong,” Pence said in a carefully crafted and adjective-laden proposal.

However, he ignored the fact that Planned Parenthood does not spend federal money on abortions, which it funds through private grants.

Though the amendment is unlikely to pass in the Senate, the national media jumped to stir a sensational argument and turned from stories on budgetary compromise to attention-grabbing debates over the value of a human life.

Coverage ignored the fact that the Pence amendment does not cut spending — it merely reallocates resources to other programs. It also missed the fact that under the proposed Republican budget revisions, Planned Parenthood’s primary source of funding would be gone.

“Let me be clear, this amendment would not cut funding for health services,” Pence said. “It would simply block those funds already in the bill from subsidizing America’s largest abortion provider.”

Title X of the Public Health and Service Act provides funding for family planning programs, specifically targeting low-income women. Republican budget revisions separate from the Pence amendment would cut Title X, denying federally funded family planning services from all Americans.

Pence has admitted that it was not his goal to cut Title X, but claimed that Planned Parenthood receives money from numerous other government resources. Just over one-third of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from Title X, and many say cutting it would starve the organization into collapse.

Rather than address this attack on Title X, we have entrenched ourselves in a tired battle over the ethics of abortion.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., believes Republicans are purposefully deceiving Americans.

“They want to impose their entire social agenda on the back of a must-pass budget,” he said in a March 17 Bloomberg article.

This isn’t the first time Pence has attempted to defund Planned Parenthood. He tried and failed in 2009 to pass the same amendment.

The Pence amendment is a distraction.

We should be concerned about a Republican siege of life-giving health services, not on the pet projects of a stubborn zealot.

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