Saturday, March 12, 2011

Testimony: "I Stand with Planned Parenthood"

Yesterday I spoke at the “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” press conference and rally in Topeka. The Kansas legislature is considering numerous pieces of anti-choice, anti-woman’s health legislation. The piece of legislation I spoke about is one being taken up on both the Federal and State level that would defund Title X and make Planned Parenthood ineligible to receive federal funding.

Good afternoon. My name is The Reverend Thom Belote. I am the minister of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Overland Park, Kansas. I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood. I minister in a tradition that has long been at the forefront of the struggle for women’s rights; Susan B. Anthony was one of our own. A tradition that has emphasized the need for public health; Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross was one of our own.

I stand here today to express my outrage at the proposed legislation in Kansas and in Washington D.C. that would seek to defund Planned Parenthood. This legislation is economically foolish, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.

Public health is good economic policy. Preventative screenings for breast and cervical cancer, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control counseling, and health education: these create a healthy society and save money in the long run. These are worthy investments. But, I don’t stand up here today and speak as an economist. I speak as a member of the clergy. This legislation is not only bad public policy. This legislation is immoral.

We face a budget crisis here in Kansas and in our country.* The question before us is this: on whose backs are we going to balance this budget? This legislation is clear. It says, “We choose to balance the budget on the backs of women and children, on the backs of teens and young adults and new moms, and on the backs of the working class, the middle class, and the poor.”

Defunding Planned Parenthood would have a body count. This legislation is lethal. It will mean young women dying unnecessarily of cancer that could have been caught with screenings. It will mean public health epidemics. It will mean lives ruined as young people are denied the education and the resources to make healthy reproductive choices.

The Kansas legislature and the US House of Representatives are choosing a path of balancing the budget on the backs of women and children, students and workers, the young and the poor. They have chosen not to balance the budget by forcing corporations with billions in profits to pay even the same in taxes that regular citizens pay. They have chosen not to stop the rich from funneling their money into tax shelters and off shore accounts.

Representative Lance Kinzer and his backers in Topeka and U.S. Representatives Yoder, Huelskamp, Jenkins, and Pompeo have shown contempt for the welfare of their constituents. They give the tax breaks to the wealthy while services are cut to the needy. They take care of their deep pocketed donors while they close their eyes to the struggles and to the lives of their constituents. They are derelict in their duties. And make no mistake: these cuts will terrorize the citizens of this state. It is a declaration of warfare against women and children and the vulnerable in our midst. What Muammar Gaddafi does to his people with planes and machine guns, these legislators do to our own people by abolishing societal safety nets and social services.

Jewish and Christian traditions teach us that we have a duty to look out for each other. That we are to be sisters and brothers to each other. That it is a moral obligation to heal the sick. That it is a sacred duty to take care of the vulnerable. These traditions are clear: It is an abomination to exploit the vulnerable. Thou shalt not sell out the needy for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals. (Amos 8:6) Thou shalt not sell out teens and college students and new moms and their children. Thou shalt not hazard the lives of the women who count on health centers for preventative health screenings, testing, and life-saving information and resources.

The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States tells us that the role of government is to help establish a more perfect union and to promote the general welfare. It is politically irresponsible and morally indefensible to cut these services and to endanger the lives of the citizens of Kansas.

[* Of course, this is not really about balanced budget. That is just a term of convenience. It is about transfers of wealth and it’s about a demented vision of a society in which government has no responsibility for the common good. In Wisconsin, a budget deficit created by providing tax breaks to the extremely wealthy has provided a convenient excuse for raiding the pensions of government employees and attacking unions. In Arizona, a budget deficit created by providing tax breaks to the extremely wealthy led the state to choose to make Medicaid recipients ineligible for organ transplants (as well as numerous other medical and dental services.) Several of the Medicaid recipients who were dropped from transplant waiting lists have already died.]