Manufactured Indignation: Lankford, Inhofe Lead Attack On Planned Parenthood

Image of James Lankford

It appears members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation are a major part of the current orchestrated attack on Planned Parenthood.

Right now, the obvious question seems to be whether U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe knew beforehand about the so-called “sting” videos produced by an anti-abortion group that show Planned Parenthood officials speaking about fetal tissue used in stem cell research.

In other words, have they and other Republican political leaders been in on the video sting, or manufactured scam, from the beginning and are just now feigning surprise and indignation? What did they know and when did they know it? Don’t expect corporate media outlets here to do any digging to answer that question.

Lankford has helped to author a Senate bill to supposedly defund Planned Parenthood. Inhofe has presented a bill that would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the organization. For good measure, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine wants to pass legislation prohibiting any companies that donate to Planned Parenthood to receive federal contracts. (Wouldn’t that be a violation of the First Amendment?)

All of this is because these Republican politicians and others are against abortion, which is only a small fraction of the procedures Planned Parenthood actually performs in its clinics. In fact, Planned Parenthood performs ZERO abortions in Oklahoma. That’s right. None.

So let’s be clear: Planned Parenthood provides vital reproductive and health care primarily to women in our communities throughout the nation. These services include providing birth control and conducting screenings for breast and cervical cancer. The abortion procedure accounts for only 3 percent of its overall work.

This non-controversy centers around videos secretly recorded by a group called Center for Medical Progress, a shadowy anti-abortion group. They show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue used in important stem cell research. For the record, Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization. It does not profit from selling fetal tissue. It only recovers minor costs for preserving and transporting medical specimens.

The videos, according to Planned Parenthood and other officials, have been selectively edited to sensationalize the issue. The point of the videos is to create visceral reactions and give politicians like Lankford and Inhofe cover to attack Planned Parenthood. Embryonic and fetal stem cell research has been going on for years. The videos reveal nothing new.

It’s true that a majority of Lankford’s and Inhofe’s constituents are undoubtedly opposed to abortion, but, again, Planned Parenthood performs no abortions in Oklahoma. Their efforts, if successful, would not change the availability of the abortion procedure here in Oklahoma. Eliminating Planned Parenthood’s ability to collect Medicaid dollars for its services will not end abortion in this country nor will it mean the overall demise of the organization. It will only make it more difficult for women to receive vital reproductive health care.

Lankford, Inhofe and Bridenstine are directly attacking women in their legislation. Their legislative efforts are utterly sexist at their core and especially cruel to impoverished women. The so-called Republican “war on women” is more than just sloganeering. These patriarchal extremists and their fellow chauvinists are using the non-controversy for personal political gain and to promote their religious beliefs.

In the end, it’s highly unlikely any of this legislation will get signed into law. It’s certain at this point that President Barack Obama would veto any bill based on secretly recorded videos representing the work of fanatics and impostors. Obama has expressed his strong support for Planned Parenthood in the past.

It’s certain as well that this manufactured controversy, fueled now by overwrought and sanctimonious indignation, will backfire on Republicans in the 2016 general election.

Oklahoma Earthquake Crisis Grows In Intensity

Fracking In Karnes County on Flickr The Commons

Here in Earthquake Central, OK it keeps getting worse.

When will the shaking and rattling finally wake people up to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in populated areas?

Do people here feel so beaten down by the prevailing political power structure and the oil and gas industry they will actually allow their homes to be damaged and possibly even destroyed to line the pockets of millionaire energy executives? Will they even risk the safety of their children?

Do you think the local corporate media, which includes conservatively biased publications like The Oklahoman, care one iota about your safety and property? Corporate media outlets here care about one thing: Advertising dollars. In fact, The Oklahoman is owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who made his money in the drilling business. He dabbles in the media business so he can support right-wing causes, such as fracking near people’s backyards to make more money for rich people like himself. When I refer to rich people, of course, I’m not talking about hard-working roughnecks who work under dangerous conditions and are used up by the energy industry as expendable costs per unit. I’m talking about predominately rich white men, who wear suits and ties to work and flaunt their power because they earn their millions of dollars or even more destroying our environment and now our sense of safety and security in our own homes.

Here are some questions for every homeowner in central Oklahoma: How much damage have the earthquakes induced by fracking caused to your home and other buildings on your property already in the last few years? (I know my house has suffered damage because of the earthquakes. Can I prove it, though?) Do you really think the oil and gas industry is going to pay for repairs and replacement? Do you REALLY think the state government here, led by Gov. Mary Fallin right now, is going to make the energy industry pay up for its negligence?

All this comes to mind because of a series of earthquakes that hit near Crescent in central Oklahoma starting on Sunday. According to one media report, there have been nine earthquakes in all since Sunday around Crescent, including 4.5-magnitude and 4.0-magnitude quakes on Monday that caused minor damage. Crescent is about 38 miles north of Oklahoma City and only 27 miles or so from Edmond.

If you live in central Oklahoma, which I do, most likely you felt the biggest quakes. The 4.5-magnitude earthquake in particular felt like it was never going to stop. I was in my house. I made a dash for the door, which is apparently not what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to find cover under a sturdy table or desk when the roof caves to protect yourself from the falling debris. All this for natural gas, folks. This is what it has come to in Oklahoma these days. Have you taught your kids what to do when an earthquake caused by fracking starts shaking the house?

The scientific evidence shows the wastewater injection process used in fracking is the root cause for the ongoing earthquake emergency crisis here. The evidence is so settled that two injections wells were shut down after the Crescent earthquakes, and one reduced its injected wastewater volume amount. But that action is not nearly enough. It’s not even a minor dent in the problem. The massive number of earthquakes here will continue for the foreseeable future, and your safety and property are in serious jeopardy.

Here is the explanation paragraph I write for all of these earthquake posts:

In the fracking process, water laced with toxic chemicals is injected into rock formations to create fissures to release natural gas. The wastewater from this process is then injected by high pressure back into the ground for “storage.” Scientists have determined the injection well process creates instability along fault lines, which triggers the quakes.

The oil and gas industry is increasingly unable to deny the connection, which has been its stance until recently when the evidence became overwhelming. The industry flacks and hacks make the argument now that fracking has been around for decades without major problems and that it’s not really fracking, really, but the injection well process that has been identified as the problem, as if that really matters. It’s all part of fracking.

The oil and gas industry flacks think you’re stupid. Fracked wells have been around for decades, true, but not anywhere close in the numbers we’ve witnessed recently under the “drill, baby, drill” mentality brought to you courtesy of the Republican Party. In addition, the fracking boom has brought this dirty, environmentally damaging process to populated areas. Literally, it’s going on near people’s backyards. What about the toxic fumes from the chemicals alone?

There’s also the issue of the connection between fracking and water contamination. Read this post about a Stanford University study and water wells near fracking sites. Read this post about a possible connection between the fracking process and radiation in creek water in Pennsylvania. This is just recent information. People have been linking fracking to water contamination for years.

There are sensible ways for our country and, really, the entire world to achieve energy independence, which includes investing more in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power that do less damage to the environment. There are probably even more sensible ways to dispose of fracking wastewater and to locate injection wells to limit or entirely prevent earthquakes, but that might mean a small cut in pay for Oklahoma’s worshipped oil and gas barons, whose publicity agency is and since its inception has been The Oklahoman.

It’s simply incredible. Oklahoma now leads the contiguous United States in the number of annual earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher. What’s frightening is the earthquakes are growing in their numbers and intensity, and state leaders aren’t doing much to respond to the crisis.

This IS an Oklahoma crisis. This IS an Oklahoma emergency. It may not feel like the aftermath of a Moore tornado, folks, but that’s only because this is a tragedy stretching over years and the corporate media outlets here are complicit with the oil and gas industry.

Inhofe So Disgusted

Image of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe

It’s no surprise that U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe has joined in the attack on Planned Parenthood after secretly-recorded videos were released by what the health organization’s president calls “militant anti-abortion activists.”

Those videos, produced by a group calling itself Center for Medical Progress, reveal no new information but only sensationalize the use of fetal tissue obtained after abortions for life-saving and breakthrough stem cell research. The videos show doctors discussing the process of obtaining the tissue.

Inhofe, along with other senators, has called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assist in investigating the matter, but the problem is there’s nothing to investigate. Embryonic and fetal tissue has been used in medical research for years. Inhofe and his fellow senators can, of course, try to shut down this type of medical research or try to ban abortion altogether but the “gotcha” videos reveal nothing new and are tremendously unethical.

In an overly dramatic statement about the issue, Inhofe said:

I am disgusted that Planned Parenthood chapters are selling fetal body parts for profit. The casual discussion of abortion, dismemberment and sale of babies in these videos is alarming and shows a true lack of moral conviction. Our nation should not be condoning the act of killing our own children or allowing these corrupt organizations to sell body parts for profit. This isn’t about being Pro-Life or Pro-Choice anymore, this is about our country’s moral conscience, and I will not stand for such horrid actions like this taking place on American soil.

First, Planned Parenthood officials have been adamant that they don’t sell fetal tissue for profit. They merely recover costs for preserving and transporting medical specimens. Second, the videos have come under much criticism for selective editing and slicing to support a political agenda. These are biased political videos not fact-supported journalism. The fact they were secretly recorded by an organization with a political agenda makes them obviously unethical and irrelevant.

In his overblown statement, Inhofe proclaims, “I will not stand for such horrid actions like this taking place on American soil.” This is incredibly bombastic. Why didn’t he make this same statement years ago? Again, the videos DO NOT reveal any new information. They simply sensationalize what’s been happening on “American soil” for years.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, according to media reports, said the videos are part of an orchestrated attack on the organization. She fired back at the critics this way:

They're using these very highly edited videos, sensationalized videos, to try to impugn and smear the name of Planned Parenthood. These activists, these militant anti-abortion activists . . . do nothing to improve the health and safety of women. And if they had their way, women could no longer come to Planned Parenthood for birth control services, for breast cancer screenings, for cervical cancer screenings or any other health care.

Inhofe and some of his fellow senators, such as James Lankford, have obviously used the political stunt to try to rile up their voter base, but what does it even matter in conservative Oklahoma? Why fuel the anger when it’s not even necessary.

Planned Parenthood does incredible work in our communities, and this latest flap will eventually subside. But what’s telling is how unethical the anti-abortion movement has become. The secretly-recorded and selectively-edited videos only reveal the fanaticism of some zealots in the anti-abortion movement. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood remains crucially vital to women’s reproductive health in this country.

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