Why in the world is the Commonwealth of Virginia giving taxpayer money to the National Rifle Association?
Even passionate defenders of the right to keep and bear arms — includ ing yours truly — might be shocked to learn that Virginia has been shoveling money into the pocket of the gun lobby for years. Law-abiding citizens have a right to own firearms. But that doesn’t mean the state should be underwriting a political advocacy group.
Gun-rights activists say the money isn’t being spent on political advocacy; they say it subsidizes the NRA’s many other valuable services. Those include its Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program, which teaches children in elementary schools, “If you see a gun: STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.” (And, yes, that is indeed an extremely valuable message.) The NRA’s Law Enforcement Activities Division hosts tuition-free seminars for police officers and sheriff’s deputies; the program is so popular participants must be chosen by lottery. Then there is the educational work performed at the National Firearms Museum, which features (among many other things) muskets and pistols from Colonial times. All very commendable.
Trouble is, you can’t corral money that easily — any more than you can pour water into the shallow end of a pool without raising the level in the deep end, too. Giving the NRA taxpayer dollars for its other services enables the NRA to spend more money on . . .
WHOOPS! HOLD ON a second. Got my notes mixed up. It turns out Virginia hasn’t been giving money to the NRA for years. It’s been giving money to the abortion-rights group Planned Parenthood for years. And now Republican lawmakers want to bring the practice to a halt.
On Wednesday the State Senate narrowly voted for a budget amendment introduced by Ken Cuccinelli of Fairfax to cut off state funding for Planned Parenthood. The House of Delegates has long been on record opposing such funding, but this is the first time the Senate has concurred.
Abortion-rights supporters are, of course, up in arms (pardon the expression). They say the taxpayer money goes to programs that enable Planned Parenthood to prevent teen pregnancy, screen for cancer, test for STDs, and walk on water.
Listening to its friends, you would never know Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider. According to State Sen. Janet Howell, the group provides “contraceptive planning which prevents abortions . . . . Planned Parenthood probably prevents more abortions than any other organization in the country.” Uh-hunh. That’s like saying that because the NRA supports instant background checks, it probably has done more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals than any other organization. But the NRA is the nation’s leading gun-rights group — just as Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading abortion-rights group. Indeed, it was a principal litigant in the major abortion-rights cases before the Supreme Court such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart (which incorporated Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood).
THERE’S NOTHING inherently wrong with that, either: Women have a right to reproductive autonomy — up to a point. Gun rights stop short of the right to harm innocent persons, and abortion rights ought to do likewise. The precise location of that point is debatable, but it certainly should preclude partial-birth abortion — a grisly procedure whose purpose is to guarantee not a healthy woman, but a dead baby. Planned Parenthood has vigorously fought against any attempt to circumscribe such infanticide. Its stance regarding abortion is even more extreme and absolutist than the NRA’s stance on guns.
All of which is, in the end, irrelevant. The real question isn’t whether Planned Parenthood’s position on a particular question is correct.The real question is why it gets taxpayer funding in the first place.
Doing good works is not sufficient reason. Every group in existence, from the Catholic Church and the Girl Scouts to Hezbollah and the Hell’s Angels, claims to be doing some good, somehow. If good works alone justify state funding, then all of them — and the NRA, too — deserve state funding. But they don’t — and neither does Planned Parenthood.
“My thoughts do not aim for your assent — just place them alongside your own reflections for a while.” – Robert Nozick.