Agency under attack by right wing is about more than abortions

Phyllis Guest

PHYLLIS GUEST | Contributing columnist

Bernard Baruch said it first in the 1940s; Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger shortened it in the 1970s, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan phrased it most succinctly in the 1980s: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Apparently, many Americans have not heard — or have not agreed with — that simple statement.

Consider, for example, current efforts in Washington, D.C., and nationwide to defund Planned Parenthood.

The efforts made news when, on April 8, Arizona Republican Jon Kyle announced on the floor of the Senate that abortions comprise “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”

The organization countered that abortions are only 3 percent of the organization’s services. Kyle’s staff asserted that his remark “was not intended to be a factual statement” and then edited the Congressional Record to say that abortion is simply “what Planned Parenthood does.”

Back in Austin for Easter recess, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas picked up Kyle’s theme. On April 20, Cornyn assured The Texas Tribune’s Emily Ramshaw that “he’s been told 98 percent of the services Planned Parenthood offers to pregnant women are abortion-related.” His staff added that the senator would not join “the nickel tour at any Planned Parenthood centers.”

Take that, you sinners.

In fact, the latest figures — from 2010 — show that Planned Parenthood of North Texas provided 6,000 abortions, 43,000 pap smears and many more thousands of low-cost screenings for cancer and other deadly ailments.

In addition, PPNT provides sexual and general health services for men and women for modest, fixed charges.

So why should any of this interest those of us in the local LGBTQA community? Think children’s well-being, sex education and tax rates. All are intertwined.

Start with the well-being of children. On April 7, State Attorney General Greg Abbott and former first lady Laura Bush announced an effort to recruit more volunteers for the Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program. Their plea is urgent — because Texas now has 42,000 children in its foster care system. Those 42,000 children were unwanted at birth or have been abused or abandoned since.

Many Texas politicians consider members of our community who might like to foster or adopt them unworthy. Yet few if any of our oh-so-righteous pols have stepped up to adopt or even advocate for these children.

Next, consider sex — sex education, that is.

In Texas, most notably in the public schools, sex ed is either all about abstinence or altogether absent. Thus, countless Texans lack basic information on contraceptive options. They cannot choose the best protection for themselves and their partners.

Small wonder Texas has so many teenage mothers and leads the nation in teens with two or more offspring. Rates of sexually transmitted diseases among young Texans also are startlingly high — and even higher among some minority groups.

Our state’s macho tradition may even encourage unprotected sex.

Finally, take the issue of how tax dollars are spent in Texas.

Unless conservatives come up with enlightened ways to lift “the least of these our brethren” out of poverty, which they seem disinclined to do, some tax dollars will go towards basic services for the poor.

An estimated 60 percent of Texas mothers are so impoverished that physicians and hospitals must compete for scarce Medicaid dollars to fund prenatal care and delivery. Many families rely on the state’s meager Temporary Assistance to Needy Families — about $260 a month — for basic foodstuffs. Texas public schools provide lunch and often breakfast so children will not spend the day hungry and go home ill.

Keep in mind that Planned Parenthood, now almost a century old:

• Is prohibited by law from using tax dollars to fund abortions. Of course, money is fungible, but Congress never provides more than one-third of the dollars needed to give all low-income and uninsured persons access to contraceptives and sexual health care. There is no tax money to free up for abortions. Support for Planned Parenthood Surgical Health Services, the separate entity that performs abortions in North Texas, comes entirely from patient fees and private donations.

• Provides services without discrimination to persons of all races and ethnicities, young and old, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Here in North Texas, Planned Parenthood works with other nonprofits, including those most closely associated with the LGBT community, to assure the availability of confidential, low-cost testing and expert counseling for HIV/AIDS as well as all other STDs.

• Furnishes important support to LGBTs who are parents, parents of LGBT children, and LGBT children of all ages. For example, a recent workshop in Fort Worth was entitled “LGBT Issues — You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers.” Leading the workshop was a facilitator with an master’s degree in social work and years of experience spent teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on sexual health.

So an argument in support of Planned Parenthood is not an argument for abortion. It is simply an argument against ignorance.

Phyllis Guest lives in Dallas and is an activist on LGBT and other progressive issues.