On March 4th, Rep. Jesse O’Hara, a longtime Montana GOP pro-jobs, pro-mainstreet legislator, wrote a thoughtful piece standing up for teachers, schools, and rural healthcare, and criticized the Tea Party Extremists in his own party as a bunch of hijackers, singling out a few individuals such as Art Wittich.
In the piece, he writes:
Somewhere along the way, extremists have anointed themselves the arbiters of all things Republican. The failed leadership team of Sens. Art Wittich and Jason Priest, along with their mouthpieces, Jeff Essmann and Edward Walker, illustrated their 10-year plan to purge the party in a series of leaked emails….
….The Republican Party I began with would never gut Montana services so brutally that classrooms are crowded, schools are shuttered, roads aren’t paved, predators walk the streets, rural health care disappears and infrastructure collapses…
Predictably, Art Wittich this week responded with a vitriolic personal attack on O’Hara, belittling O’Hara for being a teacher “who leaves his beach chair only to collect his teacher’s pension and state healthcare benefits.” Wittich also makes the sketchy and borderline-racist claim that anyone in Montana who does not have health insurance is “able but not willing to work.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 150,000 Montanans without health insurance–and 100,000 of these are employed. Another 32,000 are not actually in the labor force–that’s because they either aren’t old enough to have a job, are retired, are a stay at home parent, or disabled, or in the military. Only 13%–20,000 of the uninsured–are without work, and unless Wittich has asked every single one of those people whether or not they are willing to and looking for work, well….
Wittich also says that moderates like O’Hara joined Democrats in legislature to give Title X planning funds “to Planned Parenthood to perform abortions.” In fact, the federal government provides money to family planning clinics, like Planned Parenthood, local county clinics, and others, so that women and men who do not have health insurance can get care at reduced rates, or in some cases free, depending on their family income at the time of their visit. Title X allows these clinics to supplement birth control, breast and cervical cancer screening, testicular cancer screening for men, and other reproductive health services.
This program does not pay for abortion care. It is against federal law for the funds to be used for abortions. From the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Pub. L. No. 108-7 (2003)
(“[A]mounts provided to said [Title X] projects under such title shall not be expended for abortions, that all pregnancy counseling shall be nondirective, and that such amounts shall not be expended for any activity (including the publication or distribution of literature) that in any way tends to promote public support or opposition to any legislative proposal or candidate for public office”). See also, 42 C.F.R. § 59.5 (Title X projects must “[n]ot provide abortion as a method of family planning”).
So what O’Hara might have said, that would have been fully accurate, is that Wittich is not only an extremist, but is also a liar, and an asshole. I will say it here.