Extremist activists aren’t just pissing in the wind.

Among those generally sensible folks we used to call “Rockefeller Republicans” – and even in the 21st century, they do linger in the boardrooms and yacht clubs of the nation – there’s a perception that the religious-right extremists with whom they must share their strange political bed are all bark and no bite. Anti-abortion hardliners, for example, particularly on the state level, introduce bills and amendments to chisel away at Roe v. Wade all the time, but do these measures ever actually become law?

They do in Texas, where a new law cuts off state money from organizations with connections to abortion providers – that is, from facilities like those Planned Parenthood clinics that don’t provide abortion services. The law has been challenged, but last month a federal appeals court lifted an injunction that had blocked it.

So now, the Texas Women’s Health Program, which distributes Medicaid money to clinics that provide low-income women with health and family planning services, can go ahead and cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, making it that much harder – apparently quite a bit harder in some areas – for poor women to get standard women’s health care. You know, tricky, complicated stuff like pap smears.

It’s easy to laugh off the follies of national party platforms; so what if the Republicans’ presidential candidate disagrees with their platform’s no-rape-exception plank? Platforms don’t matter anyway. After all, how much has the Jerusalem/God brouhaha surrounding the Democrats’ platform hurt Barack Obama in the polls?

But while platforms may be fantasies, in the lives of real people – women in particular – the extremism they reflect can actually hurt.