They Shoot Poor People, Don’t They?

Like many, I was infuriated by the Komen Foundation’s decision last week to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood, funding that provides apparently frivolous breast health services .  Because enabling low-income women to receive potentially life-saving services apparently means less than the fact that abortions comprise only 3% of the services they provide. Instead of writing another post on that issue, I’ll link to one that says it better than I can.

As I started thinking about the issue, I began to wonder where these women would receive breast exams if Planned Parenthood was no longer able to provide them.  Grand political declarations are well and good until you think about the reality.  The entire point of Planned Parenthood providing breast exams was because these women couldn’t afford them elsewhere. So I think the real question is this:

Why do we hate poor people?

Yes, that is a rather inflammatory statement, but it is not difficult to conclude that when you look into some of the positions taken recently.

Planned Parenthood

One in five.  Twenty percent.  That’s a lot of women who have been able to receive care they might not have been able to afford otherwise, yet why do we let the political storm around the 3% of their services that comprise abortion threaten the 97% of important healthcare services (such as breast exams, Pap smears, birth control, etc.) they provide?

WIC (Women, Infants and Children Program)

WIC provides nutritious food to women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth and children under the age of 5 who are nutritionally at-risk due to income.  In 2010, WIC served 9 million people and almost half (45%) of the nation’s infants under one year received benefits in 2010.  In 2011, Congress attempted to cut more than $500 million from WIC’s budget in an attempt to balance the budget and still faces cuts in future budgets. Typical criticism of the program is that WIC subsidizes fatty foods and provides free formula (though they also offer education and nutrition classes); however, research demonstrates that WIC provides healthy food. While I don’t know personally what types of food are available through WIC, I think we can all agree that any food – even fatty food – is better than no food if it comes to that.  For more information, read Dresden’s amazing series of posts on living on assistance called “In Times Like These”.

Head Start

Head Start also found itself on the chopping block of Congress’ budget in 2011.  Head Start is a federally-funded preschool designed to help low-income children become prepared for school.  Head Start provides not only educational preparation but also nutrition and health services.  In FY 2011, Head Start had funding to serve 965,000 children, but potential budget cuts would reduce the number able to be served by 157,000. Criticism lobbed against the program is that early gains are not sustained: by 3rd grade, children lag behind due to lack of support, family issues, etc.  The obvious solution to this would be to fund another program to help low-income children throughout school, but no, let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater and de-fund Head Start so that low-income children never have a chance to succeed in school.

These are just a few examples of how the programs to aid lower-income citizens are constantly in jeopardy.  My question is why they must bear the burden of helping us balance the budget or rein in our fiscal household.  Do we truly hate the poor?  If so, what is it we hate?  Is it that they must not be working hard enough?  Is it that they must be less educated and not taking advantage of opportunities available to them?  Statistics on who makes up that demographic certainly would not bear that out. Forty-six million Americans were living in poverty in 2010, including 25% of children.  Those totals are the highest since the 1950s and reflect the current economic times when lost jobs are throwing families into poverty.  Unemployment, however, isn’t the only reason.  There are many who work but qualify due to not making enough.

Maybe it’s a far simpler explanation: we fear them.  We fear becoming them and losing control over our lives and the ability to take care of ourselves and our families.  So instead of acknowledging that shit happens or that maybe a policy will hurt more than help, working to build them up and give them a helping hand, we want to shame them, hide them, punish them.

I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of women and children taking the brunt of these partisan acts and laws.   How can we purport to be a family-friendly nation if we are friendly only to certain families?

I’m pleased that the Komen Foundation bowed to the pressure to rescind its decision on Planned Parenthood, but I’m certain we haven’t heard the last of it.  After all, many wonder what will happen next year when PP reapplies.  I admit that I have failed to educate myself adequately on the Komen Foundation, and I’ve been appalled at what I’ve found.  I’ll never walk in a Komen walk again. Politicizing health and well-being is the lowest of the low and any group or politician that tries to do so should be ashamed.

What are your thoughts?