The GOP v. Planned Parenthood

Rick Santorum, the de facto Photo: Associated Press/SA

WASHINGTON, January 11, 2012 - Pennsylvania senator and current Republican presidential nominee Rick Santorum shocked pundits when he came in an unexpected second place to the front-runner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, by a mere 8 votes in Iowa.

It was a surprise because a few weeks before, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich soared in the polls while Rick Santorum was fading into the background among other less talked about contenders.

And while Santorum came in at fifth in the New Hampshire primaries, he is expected to do well in the Bible belt state of South Carolina’s later this month. 

As Santorum almost beat Romney in Iowa, he could be the first to defeat Romney in a primary. In Iowa, Santorum’s rise was secured via the Christian conservative and Evangelical vote that responded to his firm pro-life stance. Clearly, the Catholic father is in staunch opposition of abortion even, he has stated, in the case of rape and incest.

But like many other Republicans and conservatives, his interest in preserving life conflicts with children being born into poverty with parents that rely on the government to provide food and subsidize their housing, health care, and child care expenses.

So how does one split the difference between carrying pregnancy to term or terminating an unwanted pregnancy? Which should the government support - education and access to better birth control options or adhering to a stricter conservative moral code that should, but does not, reduce situations where an unplanned pregnancy is likely?

Guttmacher Research studies show that married women, professional women and women from mid to upper income brackets have fewer unplanned pregnancies.   

However close to half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and poor women are five times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy and six times more likely to have an unplanned birth, according to Guttmacher Institute’s recent analysis of government data.

A 2011 Guttmacher study notes that woman cohabitating outside of marriage also experience unintended pregnancies at a higher rate than married women. One obvious reason is that in an uncommitted relationship where couples are having sex regularly, a pregnancy is most likely not to be planned.

Professional and/or educated women have lower rates of unintended pregnancies as woman control their reproduction, many opting out of having children all together.

Approximately 26% of pregnancies in women with college degrees are unplanned compared to nearly half of all pregnancies for women with less than a college degree.  The Center for Work-Life Policy concludes that childlessness has increased across most demographic groups but is still highest among professionals. And analysis of census data conducted by the Pew Research Center, indicate that about one quarter of all women with bachelor’s degrees and higher in the United States wind up childless.

Race is also a factor in unplanned pregnancies as well. Accidental pregnancy among white woman is approximately 40% compared to 67% of black women and 53% of Hispanics. 

Unplanned pregnancies in teens

When unplanned pregnancies occur in teens, the impact is severe for all involved.  Studies indicate that

  • A teen that gets pregnant is less likely to graduate from high school, and will receive some public benefit within 5 years of delivering a child.
  • A teen mom is also less likely to return to school and earn a college degree.
  • Daughters of teen moms are three times more likely to become a teen mom
  • Sons of teen moms are three times more likely to be incarcerated.

Whether conceived by a teen or full adult woman, the impact of an unplanned pregnancy is devastating on the mother and child. 

Research shows that women with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to smoke, drink, and go without prenatal care. Their births are more likely to be premature. Their children are less likely to be breastfed, and more likely to be neglected and to have various physical and mental health effects.

In a recent issue of Indianapolis Women magazine, Caitlin Finnegan Priest, MPH, Indiana Perinatal Network, pointed to statistics that noted the majority of unplanned pregnancies are born to unmarried women, outside a two-parent family, and the children are more likely to be raised poor, drop out of high school, have lower grade point averages, lower college aspirations and poorer school attendance.

The pivot point requires learning why is it that professional women are better able to control their reproductive system. Could the difference be that they are having more abortions?

Not so, according to research. At least half of American women will have an unintended pregnancy by age 45 and nearly half or 43% of those pregnancies end in abortion, according to Guttmacher.

As could be expected, studies say that these numbers are highest among poor, a group that aborts babies at a higher rate.

Another Guttmacher study noted that between 2000 to 2008, the percentage of women under the poverty line getting abortions jumped 60 percent from 27 to 42 percent.

Consequently, the higher and disproportion unplanned pregnancy rates among minorities also result in a higher abortion rate.   

In the United States, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times, and for Hispanics two times, that for white women, a 2008 Guttmacher points out.

Clearly, a planned pregnancy is better than an unplanned one in several respects, and if abortion is the undesired result, what is to be done for those born into the world to parents unprepared to care for them?

The Republican conundrum is how to meet the needs of unplanned pregnancies while abhorring abortion and wanting to cut the social programs that help curb unplanned pregnancies.

It would be naïve to assume that without some sort of practical and real, those who have higher rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortion would magically adjust their behavior if government subsidies to abortion providers wane. While advocating for personal responsibility as a solution sounds all good and gravy, it is simply not a realistic resolution.

This gets us back to education and access to birth control options. Often times those against abortion are also supportive of cutting government and government subsidized social services programs that help lessen the number of unplanned pregnancies and assist parents and children born under less than ideal circumstances.  Cutting government funding is not necessarily a wise tactic for ending poverty and lowering the rate of unplanned pregnancy among poor women. 

The government presently saves $4 in service funds for every $1 spent on family planning, analyst point out.

While trimming spending and costs to save budgets, it would be prudent to use a holistic and broad gauge of cost benefit analysis before making final decisions.

A second problem arises over the fact that Planned Parenthood, one of the largest, if not the largest supplier of women’s health services nationwide, also performs abortions. The organization has value as an educator about woman’s reproductive health and their services are crucial for fighting unplanned pregnancies. But do those who are agnostic about whether their tax dollars fund abortions have the right to squelch concerns of those who oppose taxes being spent to fund groups they are morally opposed to?

Something has to be done in the near future to reconcile these issues because research shows that those who are more likely to use the health services offered by organizations like Planned Parenthood are those more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy.

It’s been said that there is extreme value to having certain classes of people remain poor and uneducated because they are needed to work low wage, low skill jobs that are part of the engine that keep the economy going. Europe, with its lower average birth rate, is experience the challenge of having an inadequate and dying labor force.

That issue aside, a possible solution to permitting groups like Planned Parenthood to continue to provide services is to have it separate from spin off abortion providers and medical centers. Those groups would have to find sources for funding that do not involve tax dollars. 

Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read atJeneba Speaks and Politic365. She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.

 



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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
 
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
 
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
 
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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