By: Zannie Carlson
The March 21 edition of The Nation features an article on Washington’s lackluster efforts in improving the lives of unemployed or soon-to-be laid off Americans: Finding that individuals with college degrees comprise less than half of the unemployment rate, the article observes that “while the overall economy continues to suffer through the worst labor market since the Great Depression, the elite centers of power have recovered.”
The article also finds that D.C. has perversely thrived compared to the rest of the nation, attributing to this phenomenon “the detachment of the current Washington political conversation from the economic realities working-class, middle-class and poor people face.” The insularity of Washingtonians allow politicians to remain dissociated from the issues they ostensibly seek to address. As “the unemployment has barely budged,” Washington, as well as other elite politicians have focused their time on eroding women’s rights. For example, the House just passed a bill proposing that the federal budget should cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a non-profit-run clinic which provides women with affordable reproductive healthcare nationwide.
While one writer worries that “shrouded in the language of fiscal austerity, the GOP’s social agenda intends to . . .forc[e] women back into the domestic sphere,” my concern primarily lies with minority, low-income women. If the politicians were thinking about the policy implications of their legislation, they would likely realize that taking away access to contraception and abortion would raise the birthrate, particularly for poor, minority, or immigrant females, who are more likely to lack the resources to seek alternatives. Feminist blog Jezebel cites some statistics: “almost 20 percent of African-Americans nationwide don't have a usual source of health care, and many rely on Planned Parenthood for routine services that have nothing to do with abortion, itself only three percent of Planned Parenthood's operations. And 23 percent of African-American women are uninsured, compared to 14 percent of non-Hispanic whites.” Assuming that only a few of these women are not driven to get abortions extralegally, then they will have children they cannot afford, and will likely cost the state more than what the state would save by eliminating Planned Parenthood programs. To be fair to Washington, politicians in Oklahoma, Utah, even swinger state Ohio are also jumping on the jeopardizing women’s reproductive rights bandwagon.
If the function of these laws does not actually alleviate financial burdens in the state and federal budgets, why are politicians pushing so hard against women right now? By using financial rhetoric as the basis of these proposed laws, the controversy not only diverts citizens away from the real root problems of the financial crisis, but it also gives us a recycled group to blame. When the economy is in a downturn, politicians rhetorically invert the social hierarchy, so that groups who traditionally occupy the lower rungs of the social hierarchy and are in positions of least power, like racial and ethnic minorities and women, are suddenly placed in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons. This time, Planned Parenthood threatens the financial stability of the nation, while our military budget this year borders on a mere one trillion dollars. Remind me again, who is really jeopardizing our economy?
- Zannie Carlson
TMA Staff Writer