“If Planned Parenthood wants to be involved in providing counseling services and HIV testing, they ought not be in the business of providing abortions,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who led the charge against Planned Parenthood, said in an interview last year. “As long as they aspire to do that, I’ll be after them.”
Planned Parenthood was eager to engage in a discussion of the services it provides that aren’t abortion. About two-thirds of the medical care it delivers consists of screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
After the White House blocked House Republicans’ attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, state legislatures turned to the task. Nine states passed laws that bar abortion providers from receiving federal funding, leaving the White House to determine whether that makes them ineligible to participate in programs such as Medicaid.
On family-planning issues such as these, the intensity gap flips: A much larger segment of voters is willing to penalize a politician who does not support access to contraceptives. Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling firm, found that 40 percent of voters would be less likely to support a member of Congress who votes to defund family-planning programs. Just 22 percent would be more likely to support such a lawmaker.
“This year there were so many attacks, and so many aimed at birth control,” says Shelby Knox, a 25-year-old abortion rights activist who was the subject of a 2005 documentary on sex education in Texas. “That has activated a whole new generation who organize in a different way. If you want to find a silver lining in these attacks on women’s reproductive health, it’s causing the movement to grow.”
Planned Parenthood says its e-mail list increased by 1.2 million people last year, half of whom were under 35. In the 24 hours after the Komen funding news broke Tuesday, 6,000 online donors contributed $400,000. On an average day, the group receives 100 to 200 donations.
Other abortion rights groups, while not as much in the spotlight, have seen a similar effect. At the height of the congressional battle over Planned Parenthood’s funding, NARAL says it was adding more than 2,000 people to its mailing lists each day. Emily’s List, founded in 1985 to support pro-choice female candidates, has seen its membership more than double since Republicans took control of the House last January, from 400,000 to more than 1 million this past month.