Numerous media figures equate Pelosi's defense of family planning provision in recovery package to China's "one-child policy," eugenics, Nazism

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN, ROB SAVILLO & NATHAN TABAK

Several media figures have likened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments defending a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which would expand Medicaid funding for family planning services, to China's "one-child policy," eugenics, social engineering, and Nazism. In fact, the family planning provision does not mandate either limits to family size or eugenics but, rather, would expand "the number of states that can use Medicaid money, with a federal match, to help low-income women prevent unwanted pregnancies."

Following Speaker of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) January 25 remarks on ABC News' This Week, in which Pelosi defended a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that would expand Medicaid funding for family planning services, numerous media figures have compared Pelosi's comments and the bill's provision to China's "one-child policy," eugenics, social engineering, and Nazism. In fact, the family planning provision, as Democrats have pointed out, does not mandate either limits to family size or eugenics but, rather, as Talking Points Memo noted, would expand "the number of states that can use Medicaid money, with a federal match, to help low-income women prevent unwanted pregnancies." On the January 26 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) stated that rather than limiting people's family planning decisions, the provision actually would have "give[n] people choices that, in some instances, based on personal choice, will reduce health care costs in the future, that, of course, then reduces the burden on federal taxpayers."

On This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Pelosi how spending "[h]undreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services" amounted to "stimulus." Pelosi responded, in part, by stating: "Well, the family planning services reduce costs. It reduces costs. The states are in a terrible fiscal budget crisis now. ... One of those -- one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, is -- will reduce costs to the state and to the federal government, too." Numerous media figures have since seized on Pelosi's response to attack her, as well as the provision and the overall recovery legislation. For instance:

  • On the January 26 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews of the family planning provision: "I don't know. It sounds a little like China." Matthews continued: "I think everybody should have family planning. I have -- everybody believes in birth control as a right. I'm for abortion as a right and all that. It's all right. But why should the federal government have a policy of reducing the number of births? I don't know why the federal government has an interest in that."
  • Similarly, during the January 26 broadcast of CNN's The Situation Room, commentator Jack Cafferty said of Pelosi's comments: "What exactly did she mean? Are the millions of dollars for contraception supposed to stop people from having babies? That's starting to sound a little like Chairman Mao."
  • During the January 26 broadcast of San Francisco radio station KSFO's The Lee Rodgers Show, guest host Brian Sussman played a clip from Pelosi's This Week appearance and said: "Family planning services, to Nancy Pelosi, equates with abortion. She's talking about an in-the-womb genocide here, and I know that there are people listening the sound of my voice who have come from places where there is genocide, or are related to people who saw widespread human population control in the form of crazed dictators, and I've got news for ya." Sussman subsequently played an audio clip, apparently from a Nazi rally, featuring chants of "Sieg Heil!" Later in the program, Sussman said in response to a caller who compared Pelosi's comments to China's one-child policy: "[Y]ou may have something here. You take this mentality and stretch it out a bit, and you can easily see a one-child policy in this country, or maybe it'll be something in the beginning where, OK, if you decide to have more than one child, then that second child isn't worthy of a tax credit. There are going to be mechanisms in place to limit the amount of children in this country. Abortion is just one of the answers, but for everyone else, I believe there's going to be a number attached if these people have their way."
  • On the January 26 broadcast of his syndicated radio show, Neal Boortz, agreeing with a caller's earlier assertion, said of Pelosi's comments and the family planning stimulus provision: "It's eugenics all over again, folks, coming from the left this time."
  • A January 27 Wall Street Journal editorial called Pelosi "Speaker Nancy Malthus," a reference to 18th century economist Thomas Robert Malthus, and warned: "Pelosi should abstain from social engineering." As the BBC noted, Malthus famously "argued that increases in population would eventually diminish the ability of the world to feed itself," an idea which, at the time, was "radically opposed to current thinking."

Moreover, studies have shown that family planning services, particularly contraceptive use, do indeed save the government money. For example, a 2008 Guttmacher Institute study found that "[n]ationally, for every $1 spent on the family planning program, $4.02 is saved in averted Medicaid birth costs." The authors of the 2008 study calculated the savings from avoidance of unwanted pregnancies by "comparing the public-sector costs of providing contraceptive services with the public-sector maternity and infant care costs that would have been incurred." The study did not calculate savings that would have resulted from "averted abortions (or miscarriages)." Additionally, abortion was not included as a "contraceptive method" used by the study's "respondents who had received public-sector family planning care in the past year." From the report:

Calculating savings. We calculated public-sector savings by comparing the public sector costs of providing contraceptive services with the public-sector maternity and infant care costs that would have been incurred had these unintended births not been prevented. We did not estimate public-sector savings that would result from averted abortions (or miscarriages). Because few abortions are covered by Medicaid and their costs are relatively low compared with the costs of a birth, the savings from averted abortions would be negligible relative to the savings from averted births.

[...]

Cost savings. In 2004, an estimated $1.4 billion was used to support provision of contraceptive care at publicly funded family planning clinics (Table 3, column 7). Factoring in only the public-sector costs for maternity care, delivery, and one year of infant-related care for those contraceptive clients who would be eligible for Medicaid maternity care in their state if they became pregnant, we estimate that a total of $5.7 billion in Medicaid expenditures would have been needed. Subtracting the family planning program costs from the estimated Medicaid maternity costs yields a total net public sector savings of $4.3 billion. Alternatively, comparing the family planning program costs to the total Medicaid costs averted yields an estimate of per-dollar public-sector savings: Nationally, for every $1 spent on the family planning program, $4.02 is saved in averted Medicaid birth costs. Again, overall net savings were greatest in states that served the most women. Public funding for family planning clinics saved California, Texas, and New York between $350 and $570 million each in 2004, and another eight states realized net savings of over $100 million. Even the smallest states that served relatively few women (Hawaii, North Dakota, and Vermont) realized net savings from family planning clinic investments of between $8 and $12 million. Net savings for the majority of states (30) ranged between $21 and $97 million.

From the January 25 edition of ABC News' This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce costs. It reduces costs. The states are in a terrible fiscal budget crisis now. And part of it, what we do for children's health or education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those -- one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, is -- will reduce costs to the state and to the federal government, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies, no. We have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy. Food stamps, unemployment insurance, some of the initiatives you just mentioned -- what the economists have told us from right to left, there's more bang for the buck, is the term they use, by investing in food stamps and in unemployment insurance than in any tax cuts. Nonetheless, we are committed to the tax cuts because they do have a positive impact on the economy, even though not as big as the investment.

From the January 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

CAFFERTY: Now, over the weekend, lawmakers were out on their soapboxes. Democrats were selling the plan. Republicans were pointing out problems with the plan.

On ABC, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, defended hundreds of millions of dollars in the stimulus package earmarked for contraception. She said family planning reduces costs and explained that the stimulus plan includes assistance to states, and part of that includes children's health and education. That includes contraception, which Pelosi said will, quote, "reduce cost to the states and to the federal government," unquote.

What exactly did she mean? Are the millions of dollars for contraception supposed to stop people from having babies? That's starting to sound a little like Chairman Mao.

When asked if she had any apologies for what some saw as controversial remarks, Madam Speaker answered: "No apologies."

So here's the question: Is Nancy Pelosi right when she says adding birth control to the stimulus package will help the economy? You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

From the January 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

WEXLER: And I realize it's easy to find one item or this item, but even -- let's talk about that family planning. Family planning saves, if done correctly, an enormous sum of money down the road in the health-care system. But back to your original point. The -- most of the money goes to building roads, bridges, infrastructure projects, like my friend Mr. Gingrey says, as states will have designed them, as local governments as well will have designated them, also in terms of building schools. We desperately need to upgrade our education systems. We have enormous amount of resources devoted towards construction projects in public education, as we do in terms of alternative energy sources.

We are going to invest enormous sums of money in creating green jobs, which have the benefit of employment increases, as well as relieving our dependence on -- on foreign oil. This is exactly what the country needs, combined with $300 billion-plus of tax cuts which affect 95 percent, positively, of the American family base.

MATTHEWS: I don't know. It sounds a little like China. I -- Congressman Gingrey --

REP. PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): Japan.

MATTHEWS: -- I think everybody should have family planning. I have -- everybody believes in birth control as a right. I'm for abortion as a right and all that. It's all right. But why should the federal government have a policy of reducing the number of births? I don't know why the federal government has an interest in that. They have an interest in freedom and people making choices. But I just heard a case made by Congressman Wexler that it was in the national interest we have fewer kids. I don't understand that.

WEXLER: No, no, Chris, I did not say that.

GINGREY: Let me -- you asked me --

MATTHEWS: What did you mean by that? What did you mean by that?

[crosstalk]

MATTHEWS: Why is it an economic stimulus? Why are we talking about family planning as an economic stimulus program, is what I don't understand.

GINGREY: I don't -- I don't think we should be. I clearly don't think we should be. And I probably have already said enough about that one. My wife will be on me about my comments in regard to that. But --

MATTHEWS: No, I understand. Look, I'm for family planning. I'm for all this. I just don't think it's an economic stimulus plan.

GINGREY: No, of course not.

MATTHEWS: These freedoms -- these decisions should be family decisions, not federal decisions. What do you say, Congressman Wexler?

WEXLER: Of course --

MATTHEWS: Why is family planning an economic stimulus element?

WEXLER: Chris, you are right. Family planning is a personal choice.

MATTHEWS: Right.

WEXLER: And in order to make personal choices, people need to have both education and resources. And when they lack that education or know-how or resources, in effect, then, their choice is negated. And in terms from an economic analysis, to give people choices that, in some instances, based on personal choice, will reduce health-care costs in the future, that, of course, then reduces the burden on federal taxpayers. This is not a new concept. This is what we run the government on. If we can reduce Medicaid expenditures by giving people more knowledge and choice and resources, I think most people, regardless --

MATTHEWS: OK.

WEXLER: -- of their ideology, will say, that's a good economic decision.

GINGREY: Chris, I have heard Robert Wexler's explanation --

MATTHEWS: OK. We'll talk about --

GINGREY: -- and I have heard Nancy Pelosi's. And I still don't understand it. But I'll tell you, some of the money that's --

MATTHEWS: OK. I think we're getting -- I think we're at apples and oranges here. I think economic development and economic opportunity and freedom are two separate issues. But we'll talk about them later. This is the kind of philosophical argument we have on this show. Thank you, Robert Wexler.

From the January 26 edition of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:

CALLER: What I wanted to say about the Nancy Pelosi thing, is, though -- this has been done before. It was done in the early '30s in Germany. It's called eugenics.

BOORTZ: Ooh.

CALLER: It's called eugenics.

BOORTZ: Ooh. Ooh, let's see now, Nancy -- ooh. You know, I bet if -- I bet if the opponents, if they started talking about the Democrats -- the eugenic portion. Wow, you do have a point there, Laurie. You wicked, you wicked, wicked woman.

CALLER: [unintelligible] The most helpless, the children and the health care -- if you limit what the elderly and the sick can get --

BOORTZ: You do --

CALLER: -- and all you've got is a bunch of damn worker bees. Pardon the language.

BOORTZ: Well, that's hey, Laurie, eugenics. Write that down. You people out there Google it. E-U-G-E-N-I-C-S. See what she's talking about, OK?

[...]

BOORTZ: And we had a caller -- I think rightly -- bring up the specter of eugenics in connection with her comments.

JAMIE DUPREE (WSB-AM Washington correspondent): Wow.

BOORTZ: Well, think about it. Eugenics -- good grief. You know, just -- well, we need a more perfect society, and getting rid of some of these babies that are going to be a burden on the taxpayers might be a way to get there.

[...]

BOORTZ: I've been harping on this government so-called stimulus plan, and I -- the stories keep on pouring in. They keep on pouring in. We have Nancy Pelosi out there saying that contraception -- contraception is a way to stimulate the economy, and then a brilliant caller called up today and said, "You know what? That sounds like eugenics." Well, I never did explain what eugenics was, but eugenics is a program, folks, it is a program whereby you try to manage the birth rate and who gets to have babies. You try to manage that so as to create a better quality of citizen. And then Nancy Pelosi comes along and says, "Well, uh, this would be great economic stimulus for us because the states are having a tough time taking care of the cost of all these children we're having in this country." It's eugenics all over again, folks, coming from the left this time.

From the January 26 edition of KSFO's The Lee Rodgers Show:

SUSSMAN: Nancy Pelosi is our congresswoman from San Francisco, and here she is on Stephanopoulos' show this weekend. And Stephanopoulos is talking about the hundreds of millions of dollars in the economic stimulus package --

OFFICER VIC (co-host Tom Benner): Right.

SUSSMAN: -- that will be used to expand family planning services, and he says, how is that stimulus? Listen to her answer.

[begin audio clip]

PELOSI: The family planning services reduce costs. It reduces costs. The states are in a terrible fiscal budget crisis now. And part of it, what we do for children's health or education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those -- one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, is -- will reduce costs to the state and to the federal government, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies, no. We have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.

[end audio clip]

SUSSMAN: This is --

OFFICER VIC: "To deal with the consequences of the downturn of our economy." Meaning increased contraception, meaning population control.

SUSSMAN: Well, I wish it were just -- I wish it were just contraception like, you know, condoms. But she's talking about abortion. Abortion is the biggest chunk of money that family planning services like Planned Parenthood --

OFFICER VIC: Ah. Aha.

SUSSMAN: -- that's the biggest chunk of their budget. Family planning services, to Nancy Pelosi, equates with abortion. She's talking about an in-the-womb genocide here, and I know that there are people listening the sound of my voice who have come from places where there is genocide, or are related to people who saw widespread human population control in the form of crazed dictators, and I've got news for ya. If any of those people are thinking of slogans that were chanted during the 1930s, I wouldn't be surprised -- slogans like this -- play it, Shari.

AUDIO CLIP: Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!

SUSSMAN: This is absolutely sickening. I'm shocked to hear one of our nation's leaders standing before the cameras and basically revealing the plan here. I can't imagine in any other era someone coming on an ABC program, a nationally televised program, and talking about family planning services will reduce the cost of doing business in the United States for our government, because less people will be born.

[...]

CALLER: It sounds a little bit -- it does sound a bit like Nazi Germany or what the communist -- various communist regimes did in family planning, like Red China.

SUSSMAN: Yes.

CALLER: My concern becomes more kind of the Red China syndrome where, well, you can afford one baby in socialized medicine, or two, and any third or subsequent babies will not be covered by socialized medicine. And therefore, you'll either be forced to abort your child or to go to an unlicensed doctor or some underground thing, because, well, you know, children are expensive.

SUSSMAN: You know, Carl, you may have something here. You take this mentality and stretch it out a bit, and you can easily see a one-child policy in this country, or maybe it'll be something in the beginning where, OK, if you decide to have more than one child, then that second child isn't worthy of a tax credit. There are going to be mechanisms put in place to limit the amount of children in this country. Abortion is just one of the answer, but for everyone else, I believe there's going to be a number attached if these people were to have their way. Thanks, Carl, great point.

CALLER: You're welcome.

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