As expected, Senate Republicans failed in their attempt to cut off contraception and health screening services for Planned Parenthood patients. But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal rushed to act, announcing that Medicaid patients who go to Planned Parenthood will not be allowed to go there any more. Planned Parenthood estimates that 4,300 women will be cut off from their current gynecological care because of this.
“In recent weeks, multiple videos have surfaced showing Planned Parenthood … employees describing how they actively engage in illegal partial birth abortion procedures and conduct these abortions in a manner that leaves body parts intact so that they can later be sold on the open market,” Jindal’s announcement read.
The accusations are not true, of course. The entire scandal is a charade to advance the larger war on the sex lives of low-income people in Louisiana.
Louisiana is already one of the worst states in the country for STI transmissions, ranking second for gonorrhea and fourth for chlamydia infections. The state has the eighth-highest teen birth rate in the nation. The HIV problem in Louisiana is particularly bad, with New Orleans routinely ranking in the top five highest-transmission cities in the country. In 2012, the state went to No. 1 in the country for HIV cases in people ages 13 to 24.
Despite the enormous scale of sexual health problems in the state, efforts to get comprehensive sex education into Louisiana’s schools continue to be shut down—Democratic state Rep. Patricia Smith tried last year, only to face a wall of opposition from Bobby Jindal–style religious conservatives, i.e., the same people who think that fetal-tissue research means that low-income women should lose access to Pap smears and birth control pills. Smith’s bill lost in a 67–23 vote in the state legislature. The state’s current policy pushes abstinence programs, even though research shows a strong correlation between abstinence programs and HIV transmission rates among black youth in the state.
This hostility to sexual health services is being fought out not just in government, but on the ground. Over the weekend, a fire broke out at a Planned Parenthood construction site in New Orleans that appears to be an arson. The clinic is going to be much bigger and nicer than the current Planned Parenthood in New Orleans and has thus precipitated a huge amount of protest from religious-right activists in the area, as Rachel Maddow reported last year.
There’s also an ugly racial bent to all the anger about Planned Parenthood offering a shiny new clinic offering quality medical care, including abortion, to New Orleans residents. Anti-choice activists have been concern-trolling the race angle, strongly implying that black women in particular need protection from grabby abortionists. But the blunt reality is that shutting down clinic construction would result in one of the poorest communities in the city losing the opportunity to access state-of-the-art medical care at an affordable price.
Louisiana is a microcosm of how the larger anti-choice movement works. It’s a lot of posturing about “fetal life” and “protecting women,” but for some reason, the solution always involves cutting off women from medical care—especially low-income women and women of color. You have to wonder: How does keeping Pap tests away from Medicaid patients stop the supposed horrors of fetal tissue research?