America has been a continental mass of symbolism since its inception. The Declaration of Independence symbolized a permanent divorce from Great Britain. We have seen the evolution and growing significance of the American flag as an ode to nationalism. The Statue of Liberty stands as a representation of freedom and opportunity for immigrants abroad. The Civil War exposed America’s narrow definition of unity and required intra American bloodshed by the hundreds of thousands to dismantle vested interests in maintaining human bondage. And Rosa Parks individual act of bravery inspired a movement that changed the country forever -- just to name a few.
Today, America is bearing witness to a contemporary form of political symbolism by the Republican Party on the issue of Planned Parenthood --and it is not pretty. When historians study the Obama era and all of its ugliness, politically, they will likely find themselves bewildered as to why an organization committed to women’s health received so much venomous attention from a major political party. Upon further investigation though, historians will likely come to see Republican hatred for Planned Parenthood because of its symbolic relevance as it encapsulates their disdain for particular social programs and Democratic priorities that the party has traditionally despised. Let's look at the evidence:
1. Planned Parenthood primarily, but not exclusively provides comprehensive health choices, education and services to poor and middle income women: As Paul Krugman from the New York Times and Max Ehrenfreund from the Washington Post point out, republican governors and the G.O.P. in the house continue to promote policies that perpetuate poverty. And in many respects, Planned Parenthood is an anti-poverty organization because they emphasize the power of information and supports that have short-term and long-term impact on individuals, families and communities.
2. Planned Parenthood provides legal abortion services: Although Roe v. Wade has been settled law since 1973 in legalizing abortion, republicans across the country on a state and federal level, have attempted to restrict and circumvent citizen access to these services. There have been acts of intimidation, death of doctors, workers, civilians and law enforcement at the hands of right wing pro-life zealots. Instead of conveying condemnation, Republican leaders have largely remained silent. They have also rallied around a highly misleading video on Planned Parenthood’s handling of fetal tissue despite overwhelming evidence that the organization does not profit from their services.
3. Planned Parenthood represents the politics of friction -- Republicans have used this issue to create political tension amongst the electorate and have profited from the divide. The organization's presence even exposed a Republican willingness to shut down the federal government in order to destroy it.
4. Planned Parenthood represented naked politics: citizens who typically utilize these services tend to vote democratic and the organization is a regular contributor to the Democratic Party.
5. Planned Parenthood represented a politicized view of government spending: The Republican Party’s incessant rhetoric on the virtues of controlled government spending and deficit reduction is filled with countless examples to the contrary.
Arguably, Planned Parenthood has become the defining political issue in the age of Obama. The organization has been subjected to the Republican Party’s concerted efforts to devalue its work, mission and benefits to the nation. Vulnerable women across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for medical care have been vilified in the public’s sphere -- human lives subjected to a harsh exercise in political symbolism for electoral gain.
History will not judge the arrogance, hypocrisy and callousness that defined the Republican Party's behavior towards an organization that empowers choice and raises awareness kindly. Historians will also conclude that Americans deserved better.