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Wednesday, Mar 2, 2011, 8:36 am

Weekly Pulse: GOP Campaign Against Birth Control Officially Too Crazy for Scaife

By Lindsay Beyerstein

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Rally to Protect Women’s Health 092

We all have our limits. The GOP's crusade against Planned Parenthood is officially too crazy for right-wing philanthropist and media baron Richard Mellon Scaife.

In a recent op/ed column, Scaife broke with House Republicans over their resolution to de-fund Planned Parenthood and the entire Title X family planning program, Scot Kersgaard reports in the Minnesota Independent. Scaife writes that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was friends with his grandmother.

Sanger was apparently a good influence on young Richard. Scaife reminisces in the Pittsburgh Union Tribune:

I met Sanger several times before her death in 1966 and was impressed by her intellect and her commitment to many issues, not the least of which was enabling every woman to be “the absolute mistress of her own body,” as she put it.

As Scaife points out in his column, the campaign to de-fund Planned Parenthood is being orchestrated by anti-abortion activists, but abortion is only a small part of the organization's mission. He notes that over 90% of Planned Parenthood's budget goes towards preventing unplanned pregnancies. Furthermore, 0% of Planned Parenthood's federal funding goes toward abortions.

Peeping Toms

Amanda Marcotte writes in AlterNet about the lecherous face of the modern anti-choice movement. Humiliating women in the name of saving fetuses has become a cherished project of the anti-choice movement. Since Roe v. Wade, states have been limited in their ability to directly restrict abortions. So, one tried and true strategy to separate women from their constitutional rights without actually banning abortions is to throw up as many degrading hurdles as possible.

Some states force women to view their own ultrasounds before they can terminate their pregnancies. Others make health care providers deliver a canned speech about how abortion is killing a person. South Dakota, Marcotte notes, is weighing a bill to force women to attend so-called "crisis pregnancy centers," which are not health care facilities at all, but rather anti-choice propaganda outlets.

Marcotte also details a new bill in Kansas that would require minors seeking abortions without parental permission to submit to interrogation by a mental health professional--as if seeking an abortion were evidence of a mental illness. Ostensibly, this interview is to determine whether the teen is mature enough to make her own decision about abortion, but the real impetus seems to be to make the bypass process as humiliating as possible in the hopes that more young women will give up and bear children.

The larger context

Ilyse Hogue of The Nation explains why the right went after Planned Parenthood, ACORN, and the public sector unions:

[W]hile it's obvious that the right wing is out to break the back of the progressive movement, it’s easy to miss the strategy that guides their selection of specific targets. Their attacks are all carefully aimed at the same critical juncture: institutions that work for people in their daily lives and in the political arena, those that connect people’s personal struggles across the country to the political struggle in Washington. Once we recognize the critical role these progressive service organizations play in building progressive politics, the right’s broader strategy in Wisconsin and elsewhere becomes clear. Scott Walker is a soldier in the same army as James O’ Keefe and Lila Rose, the right-wing video pranksters who tried to smear ACORN and Planned Parenthood.

Drug fiends

Pharmaceutical companies are getting sweet taxpayer subsidies, Terry J. Allen reports for In These Times. The Obama administration is poised to spend $1 billion to help pharmaceutical companies develop new drugs. Of course, developing new drugs could be a great investment, but not the way the government wants to set up the program. Allen explains:

The new project “is outrageous,” says Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. Public subsidies for drug research, she says, mean that “taxpayers pay twice, first for research and development [R&D], and then they pay high prices at drugstore.”

If the federal government is going to invest tax dollars in drug development, it should only do so with a guarantee that all Americans will share in the benefits of this research in the form of affordable, accessible drugs.

"Dangerous gifts"

What is a mental illness? Making Contact talks to people whose thoughts and feelings set them apart, and who may meet psychiatry's criteria for mental illness, but who are questioning the labels that have been applied to them. The program also examines the work of the Icarus Project, a group of mental health activists who are looking beyond traditional models of defective brain chemistry and psychopathology.

These activists argue that reductive biological explanations for mental illness can be used to overshadow other equally important contributing factors. A strict biological or pschyodynamic model of mental illness depoliticizes profound questions about suffering and community. The Icarus Project is not opposed to psychiatric drugs, but encourages its members to regard drugs as one tool among many.

Also on Making Contact: What does mental health look like in a community where virtually everyone has been seriously traumatized by war? Andrew Stelzer goes inside a Somali refugee community in Minnesota to find out how residents are using modern and traditional strategies to heal themselves.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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