Over and over during the farce that was supposed to be a hearing on Planned Parenthood, Republican representatives attacked Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards because her organization does not provide mammograms as part of its core set of services. (They do sometimes pair with organizations for programs that offer them to low-income women.) Over and over again, the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms was held out as some kind of proof that the organization doesn’t provide women’s health care.
Marcotte points out that most gynecologists don't do mammograms, but instead refer their patients to radiology centers or hospitals with mammogram facilities. (I don't want to copy all of her column here, so I'll keep this short.)
Also, mammograms aren't recommended for most women under 50, and Planned Parenthood is a family planning clinic. "Think 20s and 30s, not 40s and 50s. The overlap between the women who need birth control pills and the women who need mammograms is pretty small."
So why the big focus on mammograms at Planned Parenthood? Are Republican men just that ignorant about women's health?
This obsession with mammograms belies the real agenda here, which has nothing to do with “fetal body parts” or even abortion, but with delegitimizing health care that exists so that people, particularly women, can have healthy and safe sex lives. The implication was clear: Mammograms are real health care, and all those other services—contraception, STI testing and treatment, Pap smears—are not. After all, virgins can get breast cancer, but you aren’t going to get the clap or an unintended pregnancy if you don’t have sex.
Republicans are smart and know they can’t just come right out and denounce the use of health care services in order to have recreational sex, because recreational sex is a nearly universal behavior. Ninety-nine percent of women who have sex have used contraception. Ninety-five percent of Americans had premarital sex. So the slut-shaming is being done sideways, by focusing heavily on non-sexual health care—or prenatal care—while pointedly ignoring the health care people centered around having sex. The omission speaks volumes.
If you thought the religious right had given up on the mission to push abstinence-until-marriage, this hearing should be a reminder that they very much have not, and instead are eager to undermine any care for the non-abstinent out of fear that it gives permission to have sex. Abstinence-only programs haven’t gone anywhere, either. As Erica Hellerstein of Think Progress reported over the summer, most programs were just renamed something like “abstinence-focused” or even, falsely, “evidence-based,” but they are pushing the same message: The only legitimate life choice is to refrain from having sex until marriage.
Why they don’t think married women need contraception is another question entirely, but we are talking about politicians who think you need a mammogram machine in a family planning clinic that primarily serves women in their 20s. Expertise on what women actually need in their health care is not a strong suit.