The government is running out of money. We’ve known this for a long time, of course. It’s a fact that’s central to the debate over any new policy—can we afford to fund this, or do we need to make more cuts so our debt doesn’t spiral any farther out of control than it already has?
On the one hand, many of our social programs are necessary to, you know, keep people from dying. On the other hand, by funneling taxpayers’ money into the hands of rich investors who lend money to the government and receive interest on those loans, our national debt perpetuates the same inequality that makes those programs necessary. It’s a tough decision.
In 2013, the government was so divided over whether to fund the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” that it shut down. And this October, Republicans have been threatening to shut down the government if it does not cut funding to Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides birth control, STD screenings, abortions, and other reproductive health services. This controversy has been fueled by the fact that abortion and birth control are still hot-button issues in American politics, and each side seems to be making it about them. If you “Stand With Planned Parenthood,” you’re a babykiller; if you don’t, you hate women.
I’m a proud feminist, though I think that framing this as purely a “women’s issue” erases the fact that trans men and nonbinary people require access to this care too. I’m pro-choice. I think Planned Parenthood provides a wonderful array of services.
And I think we should defund it. The government is spending more money than it has, and it needs to stop.
But wait, you say. Don’t people have the right to the reproductive care that they need?
Well, yes. But who are we to say that some forms of healthcare are better than others? What about people who are chronically ill and unable to pay for treatment? Don’t they have the right to health, too? Instead of funding one specific, private organization, why don’t we fund free, universal health care for all Americans, including reproductive care?
It seems counterintuitive, but this would, in fact, save the government quite a sum of money. A study by the Lewin Group showed that California would have saved $343.6 billion by now if it had adopted a single-payer healthcare system in 2006. Furthermore, a more recent analysis shows that while the Affordable Care Act spends 12% of its funding on administrative costs and profit for insurance companies, Medicare only spends 2% on overhead. Yet another study, conducted by BMC Health Services Research, estimates that the United States could save $375 billion a year by providing free healthcare to its citizens.
In a way, we’d still be funding Planned Parenthood; state insurance would pay for anyone who wanted to go to the clinic. But this way, we’d save money and wouldn’t have to raise the debt ceiling. There would be zero excuse to shut down the government. Should such a proposal make it through, opponents of reproductive health would be robbed of a powerful bargaining tool, and supporters couldn’t be accused of trying to tax or spend too much.
Unfortunately, such a proposition is completely unrealistic. Despite having been successfully implemented in countries like Canada and Finland, universal healthcare is considered far too “radical” in the American political climate to gain much support. And this was never even about the budget in the first place; it’s an attempt to control the bodies of women, as well as trans people who are wrongly perceived as women. So there’s going to be a showdown, and possibly a shutdown, as our debt crisis is exploited to push an oppressive agenda.