- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2011


An administration is defined by what it treats as non-negotiable. With a government shutdown avoided and the federal budget set for the next six months, we now know what defines the Obama administration: delivering tax dollars to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s busiest abortion provider.

We know this not only because President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused time and again to ask the rich nonprofit to give up even one pinched penny, but because of what Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid have proved willing to cut instead: community health centers for the poor.

You remember community health centers, don’t you? During the debate over Obamacare last year, congressional Democrats led by Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont ballyhooed new funding for these health care facilities in distressed communities. Relative to other elements of the bill, the additional money for these centers was not controversial.

No, community health center funding was widely accepted because the facilities it underwrites do not, unlike Planned Parenthood, perform abortions. The centers provide a wide variety of primary care for the indigent, including prenatal care and cancer screenings for women who can’t afford them - not just breast exams but more expensive mammograms that can detect breast abnormalities in women at risk.

The value of this work was so highly regarded by the administration that it sent first lady Michelle Obama out to visit various CHCs, as the centers are called, during its campaign for the health care bill. The visits, augmented by official statements from the White House, drew wide media attention and garnered Mrs. Obama fulsome praise and picture-perfect photo ops.

In July 2009, the first lady traveled to central Virginia to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a CHC funded by the $800 billion stimulus bill. In her remarks, she noted the role the CHCs play in prevention, citing the ability of center doctors to ask whether a woman has had a mammogram. “Ultimately, practice here isn’t just about diagnosing problems, it’s about caring for people,” she said at the ceremony. And indeed, the CHCs typically provide mammograms on site - more than 320,000 per year, according to a 2009 summary of their services.

Altogether, the first lady made three stops at CHCs during the first half of 2009 - each time touting what the administration was doing to boost their capacity.

During the just-concluded debate over the continuing resolution, the subject of breast cancer screenings and mammograms indeed came up. But the topic was not CHCs and their actual cancer screening services, but rather the claim, sparked by a careless statement by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, that any cut in the organization’s funding would deny women such screenings and jeopardize their health.

After a raucous back-and-forth in the major media, it became clear that Ms. Richards was not referring to mammograms, because her mammoth abortion and birth control agency does not perform them. It does perform clinical breast exams. But that is not the reason Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid went to the mat for the agency.

It couldn’t be - because community health centers do perform mammograms, and one thing is now obvious: The continuing resolution Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid agreed to last Friday night cuts CHCs by $600 million.

That is not a misprint. On Friday night, coating its ideology in flowery language about women’s health and alleged Republican mean-spiritedness, liberal Democrats refused to eke out one dime from Planned Parenthood’s plump purse, waxing poetic about cancer screenings, all the while a green eyeshade and sharp knife were being taken to funding for health centers that perform full-scale exams for the needy. Not only that, but CHCs offer prenatal care to women and their babies - 480,000 times in 2009 alone. Planned Parenthood? Its 850 clinics average less than one prenatal visit a month. In other words, it’s not their line of work.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, declared that she and her allies were drawing “a line in the sand” on full funding for Planned Parenthood. At a meeting Friday night between House Speaker John A. Boehner and Mr. Obama, the negotiations came down to this last issue. With a federal shutdown just hours away and shared sacrifice for Planned Parenthood on the table, Mr. Obama reportedly told the speaker, “Nope, zero, John, this is it.”

So now we know. Draping themselves in faux concern for women’s health, the Obama Democrats were willing to cut real cancer screenings and prenatal care while protecting an ideological and political ally whose dominant business is abortion. And they were willing to threaten the closure of the national government to get their way. “Outrage” is an overused word in today’s political parlance, but in this instance, its only fault may be that it’s far too mild.

Frank Cannon is president of the American Principles Project.

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