The View From The Fence
(WARNING - MAJOR "INVINCIBLE" COMIC SPOILERS BELOW!!)
Below is a scene from last week's Invincible#79, courtesy of Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Cliff Rathburn. Mark Grayson, the title character, has recently returned to Earth after a year (comic time) in space fighting the Viltrumite War and has reunited with his girlfriend Atom Eve. We discover she has had a small but noticeable weight gain and, more importantly, has a big secret she's afraid to reveal to Mark. Finally, in issue#79, she breaks down and tells him.
Which leads to Mark's reaction.
This issue struck a chord with me, particularly since my wife and I are trying to conceive right now (not a smooth road for couples in their mid 40's). I'll say this for Kirkman: He's got guts. That's a rough issue to cover in a superhero comic.
Believe me, it's rough enough to even write a blog entry about it.
I'll level with you about my stance on the abortion issue: I'm, well,...split. Part of the "muddy middle". On the fence, if you will. (Hence the title of this post.) It's not that I don't have strong opinions on it. I do. But many of them are conflicted. There are complex and unresolved questions about when life begins (about which I'm not entirely convinced that either side's position is correct), as well as what happens when two sets of rights intersect and conflict. And it can be a grisly procedure, depending on the stage at which it's performed (NOTE: Thanks for the correction, Saranga). However, I get more than a little nervous about giving governments that much power over womens' reproduction. Historically, it's been a recipe for disaster. We've seen how that scenario plays out.
This isn't an issue that easily lends itself to compromise. However, all three positions would undoubtedly find a general consensus on the wish to reduce the number of abortions. Which is why the recent attempts to defund Planned Parenthood make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Allow me to explain.
There has been a staggering level of disinformation on the abortion issue. How much? So much that when The Onion published this satirical piece from a woman who claimed she was "totally psyched" about her upcoming abortion, one blogger actually thought it was the real deal. (This led to such hilarious responses as "For your next post, how about a passionate speech on the need to immediately free Prince Albert from the can?") Yes, this was only one guy, but one can infer from reading the Onion article that it was intended to lampoon the widespread idea that women enter into the decision casually. Even to those those unfamiliar with 'The Onion", there were some very obvious tells, particularly in the paragraphs detailing the procedure itself. Depending on the stage, it can sometimes be highly invasive, in case you weren't aware. (Once again, thanks, Saranga.)
It doesn't help matters when you have politicians like Senator Jon Kyl who, while arguing for the defunding of Planned Parenthood recently, claimed that 90% of Planned Parenthood's services were abortions (as opposed to the actual percentage of roughly 3%). Kyl's spokesperson claimed later that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement", which is apparently code for "lying his ass off in hopes that it would stick with low-information voters", an all-too-common political practice nowadays. This revelation was ridiculed in the media, most notably by Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Wyatt Cenac.
However, the bigger deception was all but ignored. The main argument for Planned Parenthood's defunding seems to be that federal funds should not pay for abortions because taxpayers should not be required to support things that contradict their moral beliefs. Let me point out two problems to those of you out there who support this argument:
1. I can name several things that I don't want the federal government to fund because they contradict my moral beliefs, like the 3 wars or Guantanamo Bay, to name a few. So can millions of our fellow Americans. But those things keep on receiving money. So, in the words of Hal Jordan....
And, more importantly...
2. You already won this fight. 34 years ago.
That's right: The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, already forbids federal funding from being spent on abortions, including funds to Planned Parenthood. Consequently,their abortion services are not funded by federal tax dollars, but rather by private contributors like the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation. Here's what that means: How many tax dollars will go toward Planned Parenthood's abortion services if we defund it? None. How many tax dollars will go toward its abortion services if we don't defund it? Also none.
I can understand why Planned Parenthood would be a juicy target for those against abortion. They perform roughly 332,000 annual abortions nationwide, which is around 1/4 of the roughly 1.21 million total abortions performed annually in the United States. So if Planned Parenthood shuts down completely, the USA's annual abortion amount is reduced by 25%, right?
Not necessarily. That's only part of the calculus, you see. Their entire range of services includes pap smears, contraception (birth control), cancer screening, and counseling, among other things. (See the chart below.)
Let's take the contraception program. The number of abortions the organization estimates were prevented by their contraception program is roughly 220,000. That reduces the net abortion increase that they are responsible for to approximately 112,000 (332,000 - 220,000 = 112,000). And that's just factoring in the unborn. There's also the lives of the women and men themselves who would be saved by the cancer screenings and other services provided. And yet these are the services that the conservatives in Congress want to defund.
I've got one word to describe that strategy: Idiocy.
Trying to cut down on abortions by defunding contraception is like trying to reduce crime by firing all the cops. It's like trying to protect coastal cities from flood damage by tearing down all the levees.
It's like trying to neutralize the Joker's crime sprees by killing Batman.
If I controlled Congress, and I wanted to reduce abortions, I wouldn't want to remove the funding of the non-abortion services of Planned Parenthood, I'd want to quadruple it. Fund the crap out of contraception. Make it more effective, more efficient, more accessible, and more affordable, especially for lower income women who need it.
Yet many in our government want to do the exact opposite.
That's not a sound, rational reproduction policy. That's a Monty Python skit.