I stood in line for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s town hall meeting on Saturday, April 22, waiting to discuss with her about co-sponsoring bills for gender equality in the House and express my gratitude for her support of Planned Parenthood.
But as I was standing in line, something interesting happened. An old man came up to me, an avid, young women’s rights activist, and passionately vociferated, “You people always say women need to be liberated. Liberated from what? Liberated so they can hurt people? Liberated so they can kill innocent babies? I absolutely hate Planned Parenthood and I think you need to understand what you’re supporting.”
At that moment, I realized the widespread misconceptions about Planned Parenthood. When we think of the organization, we often think of the pro-choice or anti-abortion controversy raging around America.
This program is partially paid for through a federal grant program known as Title X, and this clause is a cause of controversy because many argue that the federal government should not be giving money to a program that performs abortions. However, Planned Parenthood does so much more. Planned Parenthood is about providing accessible reproductive health care to women. It’s about giving birth control and screenings for breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer to women who cannot afford it. In fact, in 2015 alone, health centers through Title X provided over 800,000 pap tests for cervical cancer, 1 million breast cancer exams, and 6 million STI tests. It provides sexual education to 1.5 million young Americans every year and prenatal care to over 17,000 women. Abortions, to be clear, only make up less than 3% of Planned Parenthood services.
In January 2017, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stated that he was for defunding the vital agency because, “We don't want to commit taxpayer funding for abortion, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider.”
Not only is this statement unfounded, it blatantly reveals the ignorance of Washington politicians. To be clear, Federal money does not fund abortion services. Planned Parenthood is consisted of Title X and Medicaid; Title X does not allow federal funding to go toward abortions, and the 1977 Hyde Amendment dictated that Medicaid funds by government spending can only be allocated for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger. Yes, 3% of Planned Parenthood services are abortions, but defunding Planned Parenthood will only take funding away from its other, vital services.
So what does defunding Planned Parenthood actually mean? It means punishing low-income women, women living in rural areas, and women of color by taking away their access to reproductive healthcare. It means punishing the 1 out of every 5 women in America who rely on Planned Parenthood for accessible, preventative birth control and STD treatment. It would mean a skyrocket in teen pregnancies, as taking away many teens’ access to birth control and sexual education would mean a rise of unwanted pregnancies. Abstinence is proven to be an ineffective solution; there will inevitably be unwanted teenage pregnancies, and so there must be available resources for these teens to seek help. Planned Parenthood’s primary funding source is the government (40% of its funds come from the government), and uses all the taxpayer money it receives to protect the lives for women.
This effect is starkingly evident in Texas. Five years ago, Texas drastically cut its funding for Planned Parenthood from $138 million to $38 million, and it led to devastating results that hurt women. It’s motivation for cutting funds was the same as that of Washington politicians: Texas wanted to appease anti-abortion groups. However, in a study from the Houston Chronicle, pregnancy-related deaths nearly doubled and 54% of patients in the state stopped receiving care. According to the Washington Post, 1 in 4 clinics in Texas closed, and two-thirds of those clinics were not even part of Planned Parenthood. Organizations that still remained open were unable to offer contraceptives and IUDs for patients. In counties with no clinics, there was a 36% reduction in access to IUDs and 31% reduction to access to injectable contraceptives. Many women who relied on Planned Parenthood found difficulty going to a new health care provider, as many other clinics simply did not have the resources to absorb the number of patients who originally relied on PP. If this devastating consequence already happened in Texas, do we want it to happen throughout all of America?
Planned Parenthood isn’t a partisan political issue. It isn’t about supporting or opposing abortion. It’s about reproductive rights for women. It’s about human rights, and Washington needs to understand what it’s talking about when its threatening to defund Planned Parenthood.
Regardless if you are pro-life or pro-choice, if you are pro-human rights, get involved. Write to your Representatives and Senators to lobby and urge them to support the continued funding of Planned Parenthood. Call Republican representatives who oppose the agency and educate them that defunding the organization means taking away healthcare for millions of women. Join marches and rallies. Use the hashtag #IStandWithPP on social media. Sign the petition against defunding on www.istandwithpp.org.
Washington politicians, are you really using the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which saves millions of American women’s lives, to further the agenda of your party? Are you really willing to be against human rights for women?
If so, you’ve hit a new low.