The Mysterious "Fiscal Restraint" Of Restricting Abortion Rights

The headline on The New York Times coverage of the three anti-abortion laws House Republicans are pushing: "Under Banner of Fiscal Restraint, Republicans Plan New Abortion Bills." Read that again — it's not a joke.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pushed that line in a press conference yesterday discussing the so-called "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act," which would codify the Hyde Amendment and make it harder for private insurance to cover abortion, and the "Protect Life Act," which would revive the failed Stupak Amendment to restrict any federal funding to abortion under health care reform. The bills, he said, "are obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our Pledge to America.... These are bills which have to do with the expenditure of government funds, taxpayer dollars for abortion, something that most Americans feel we should do without."

The right has yet to price these alleged abortion windfalls, but in both the tiny number of abortions qualifying for federal Medicaid (85 in 2006) and the minimal benefit through overall insurance subsidies of plans that happen to cover abortion, we are talking about a microscopic "savings" to taxpayers. And, with the third bill that is trying to strip Planned Parenthood of funding for sex education and women's health services not related to abortion, we're actually talking about costing taxpayers more. As K.J. Dell'Antonia broke it down,

If Planned Parenthood closes its doors (the clear hope of Indiana Rep. Mike Pence and the 154 colleagues who've jumped on his bandwagon), then those women will go without-when for every dollar in public funding spend on family planning services, Medicaid saves $4.02 the next year. Why do Pence and his brethren support an action that would effectively cost taxpayers some $1.2 billion?

Why, indeed? Maybe because this has nothing to do with fiscal restraint, whatsoever. This fact is not lost on the Democrats in both the House and the Senate, who held separate press conferences yesterday against the "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion" and "Protect Life" acts.

Senators like New York's Kirsten Gillibrand, California's Barbara Boxer, and Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal spoke out against the bills, which haven't been presented in the Senate yet. (New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg described the bills as being "like a third-world country that's requiring women to wear head shawls, cover their faces even if they don't want to do it." Attention Senator: Can of worms; find a new simile.) That's because they're seizing on this as a way to show women voters who really has their interests at heart. Per Talking Points Memo:

Democratic campaign types say Republicans may have boxed themselves in with the bills, which have led to an embarrassing walkback on "forcible rape" and go farther than critics say any anti-abortion legislation has in the past. Democrats hope that publicizing the bills and forcing the Republicans to talk about them could alienate the new House majority from some of its independent female supporters.
... NARAL communications director Ted Miller told TPM his group is "targeting anti-choice members of Congress, particularly members of the freshman class, who ran on jobs and the economy who are now signing their names to this extreme anti-choice legislative agenda."

But there was so much economic logic in the testimony of designated hate group Family Research Council in the House subcommittee hearing yesterday! "An induced abortion is the purposeful termination of the life of a human child before birth. As the Supreme Court stated in Harris v. McCrae, "no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life." And so on.

As Miriam Z. Perez asks in Colorlines today,

The question remains: Why is this issue, of all the pressing issues of our current moment, dominating the GOP's agenda nationwide? Jessica Arons of the Center for American Progress has one theory: "Because they have no ideas of substance. They don't know how to fix the economy, so instead they are trying to create distractions with this political theatre around abortion."

Lucky women, getting to bear the brunt of these "distractions."

The GOP Attack On Reproductive Rights [Colorlines]
Under Banner of Fiscal Restraint, Republicans Plan New Abortion Bills [NYT]
Ruse Testimony [FRC]
Democrats Raring For Abortion Fight This Week [TPM]
Target Planned Parenthood [Slate]