In the wake of the recent Republican-controlled House of Representatives vote to defund Planned Parenthood, there has been a great deal of debate surrounding the necessity of the organization. Many misconceptions based off flawed information have arisen around Planned Parenthood, all of which could have very real and harmful effects for women and families across America. In writing this op-ed, I hope to address these misconceptions as well as to defend why Planned Parenthood matters.
Planned Parenthood’s alleged profiting off fetal tissue has been used as an excuse to defund the organization. This is due to a series of edited and distorted videos made by the Center for Medical Progress, an organization devoted to ending abortion, which has spent the past few years posing as representatives from groups who want to buy fetal tissue and recording the interactions with Planned Parenthood employees. In reality, Planned Parenthood has not done anything illegal. According to the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, it is legal to collect “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue.” Even so, less than one percent of Planned Parenthood centers has had any involvement in fetal tissue donation, and Planned Parenthood has, at times, taken extra precautions and not accepted any compensation for donations to medical research.
Some argue, such as Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio did, to “take the dollars from one private company doing … barbaric things, and give it to federally approved community health centers.” As discussed, Planned Parenthood does not do anything illegal or “barbaric.” But more importantly, in his advocation for taking the funding that would go towards Planned Parenthood and distributing it amongst other health care providers, Jordan is ignoring important factors. The reality is that there simply aren’t other health care providers that could fill the space left in the wake of Planned Parenthood’s defunding. According to the organization’s 2013-14 annual report, Planned Parenthood provided 10.6 million services for 2.7 million clients in 2013. Of all services, 42 percent went to STI/STD testing and treatment; 34 percent of services went towards contraception; nine percent was for cancer and screening prevention and only three percent of services went towards abortions. During the testimony of Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, which took place on Sept. 29, Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York stated that “In 103 counties with a Planned Parenthood center, Planned Parenthood serves all of the women obtaining publicly supported contraceptive services. There aren’t any community health centers that can step in to fill the void.”
Many excuses have been made in attacking the organization, but in actuality, the facts don’t seem to matter. As Maloney puts it, “the righteous rhetoric we’ve heard for weeks about Planned Parenthood trafficking baby parts has one fundamental flaw: It is not true. And it never has been true … The reason the facts don’t matter is that this whole episode is not about tissue donation, or the Hyde amendment, or Medicaid reimbursement. The core issue is that Republican members of Congress now almost universally oppose a woman’s right to choose, they oppose the constitutional right of abortion.” In a letter from Republicans threatening a government shutdown unless they saw the defunding of Planned Parenthood, Maloney points out that “all of the signatories are men, none of whom will get pregnant, or need a cervical screening for cancer, or mammograms, or pap smear, or other life saving services that are provided by Planned Parenthood.” Why do we continue to see women’s lives being determined by all-male groups who know that they will never have to deal with any of these issues?
Being pro-choice or pro-life should not influence one’s opinion on whether Planned Parenthood should be federally funded. As Richards says in her testimony, “now while the federal policy, in my opinion, discriminates against low income women, no federal funds pay for abortion services at Planned Parenthood or anywhere else, except in the very limited circumstances allowed by law.” Federal funds do not go towards abortions, and the abortion services that Planned Parenthood provides makes up only three percent of its services. Furthermore, in a study done by the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Guttmacher Institute in New York, no matter the laws and restrictions on abortions, rates of abortion stay the same. The difference is that when safe and legal abortion services are provided, women do not die.
The bottom line is that Planned Parenthood has not actually done anything illegal, and there is no legitimate basis for defunding it. This is an age-old issue of regulating women’s bodies, which has historically been done by men, and continues to this day. Defunding Planned Parenthood is dangerous for women across all classes, but will mostly affect low-income women who don’t have access to the health care services they need. Before we think about where we stand on abortion or the political spectrum, we need to realize that Planned Parenthood is a legitimate, lawful and necessary organization for which there exists no basis for defunding, and without which there would be a severe lack of health care services for women across America.
Ava Anderson ’18 is from New York, N.Y. She lives in Gladden.