Move over gay marriage—it’s sex education programs the Republicans are gunning for now.
Despite the “reboot” effort Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus talked about following his party’s crushing electoral losses in November, that message of change doesn’t seem to be resonating.
Instead of shying away from the toxic social issues that have damaged the party’s reputation of late, many state lawmakers have forged ahead with controversial bills that could work to further alienate moderate voters. Republican policymakers in North Dakota, Arkansas and Texas in recent months have been responsible for passing some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Now, politicians in these three states are looking to defund sex education programs for at-risk teenagers.
“As a political party, you can be still pro-life but advocate for responsible behavior. I think all of this coming on the heels of the ‘reboot’ again further exacerbates the problem we are having. They did not get the message,” former RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Chris Matthews on Hardball Tuesday.
At the heart of the matter in these defunding efforts appears to be the role conservative boogeyman Planned Parenthood would play in the sex-ed programs. The case garnering the most attention was the attempt in North Dakota to attach an amendment to the state’s latest anti-abortion bill that would have blocked a $1.2 million federal grant for a sex education program for teens who are homeless or in foster programs. The grant was targeted because Planned Parenthood is to be involved in administering the program in conjunction with North Dakota State University.
Word filtered out Tuesday night that the amendment was being struck from the abortion bill—conservative lawmakers couldn’t stomach an organization, which they perceive as an advocacy group for abortion, being involved in even well-meaning sex education efforts.
“If your problem is with Planned Parenthood, then make that the central argument…but don’t nickel and dime. Don’t cut and slice through programs that have nothing to do with abortion,” Steele said. “States can do what they want to do with respect for Planned Parenthood funding. Where I have a problem in this particular case is not affording a homeless child, a child that is not in the system to have access to information that could protect their lives, could be beneficial to them is some way.”
Lauren Ashburn of Dailydownload.com took a larger picture view of contraception vs. abortion argument, pointing out that Republicans can’t have their cake and eat it too.
“I think Republicans, what they need to do, is choose. They need to choose is abortion more important, or is contraception more important to them as an issue because right now, you can’t have it both ways in this society,” Ashburn said. “They are trying to have it both ways in this society. I think that you have to understand from a political point of view that you can’t.”