Monday’s tornado left a lot of devastation in its wake, including the destruction of Planned Parenthood. Granted, the tornado itself had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood, but the Oklahoma Congress sneakily capitalized on its citizens’ distraction to push through a bill that effectively defunds the health organization.
With its community in a state of emergency, one would hope Oklahoma legislators would keep focused on addressing the state’s pressing problems and providing resources to the tornado’s victims. Instead, just two days after the tornado struck, at a time when citizens are in need of increased health services, the Senate voted to defund one of the states most reliable health care providers, Planned Parenthood.
If that doesn’t seem underhanded enough, the Senate also did not follow its typical protocol of mentioning the bill on its legislative agenda, meaning that even if constituents did not have their attention diverted, they would not have known this issue was coming up on the Senate floor.
Nonetheless, State senators voted 33 to 8 in favor of passing Senate Bill 900, with the House following suit with a vote of 65 to 12. Although the bill does not mention Planned Parenthood by name, it will redirect funds allocated to private family care providers to public hospitals.
The COO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Penny Dickey, expressed concern over the hasty reallocation of funds: “It shifts family planning money away from specialists in reproductive health care to other agencies that don’t have the capacity or the expertise to serve the women who come to us.”
At least one Oklahoman lawmaker concurs. As a professional doctor, State Representative Doug Cox knows that taking money away from Planned Parenthood is a “mistake.”¯ “They perform a valuable service as far as breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, parenting classes, many things that benefit our state that we’re sorely in need of,”¯ he said. Cox, a Republican, added that while some of his colleagues know of Planned Parenthood’s value, because of the organization’s public perception, they felt pressure to vote to defund it anyway.
Because that’s really what this vote is about anyway, isn’t it? Just the idea of abortion. The facts that Oklahoma’s public funding is not allocated toward abortions and that the vast majority of the health services Planned Parenthood provides have nothing to do with abortions are (absurdly) irrelevant. Planned Parenthood has become the victim of a successful smear campaign.
Defunding Planned Parenthood is not the only way Oklahoma politicians are utilizing the opportunity to pursue an agenda following the tornado. Republican Senator Tom Coburn is demanding budget cuts elsewhere before providing financial relief to his state’s victims. Surely his constituents enjoy being used as a bargaining chip to balance the budget.
Meanwhile, the state’s other Republican Senator, Jim Inhofe, faces criticism for trying to secure relief aid for his state. In this case, the problem is that he opposed funding the Hurricane Sandy relief bill just months ago. Now that the victims are in his home state, he looks like a hypocrite. As a vehement climate change denier, Inhofe also finds himself in a predicament since scientists believe that global warming is a top cause of the rise of tornadoes.
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