Monday, April 25, 2016

Guest Post: The Problem With the Republican Hatred of Planned Parenthood

A huge hot topic during this election season has been the funding and support of Planned Parenthood. Republicans are actively trying to cut federal funding of the organization and want it shut down. This is all coming after a questionable video was released suggesting Planned Parenthood broke federal laws, putting the nonprofit organization in the spotlight. The video later turned out to be a fabrication.
The problem is that Republicans who are speaking out and fighting for the shutdown of this organization are focusing only on what they want to focus on and not seeing the bigger picture. Planned Parenthood is an important organization that deals with a variety of women’s health issues and provides care to people who might not be able to get it otherwise. It is more than what the Republicans are trying to say it is.
The Beginning of the Battle
What brought Planned Parenthood from being a household name of a health care provider to being a controversial subject was the videos that were released last year.
The Center for Medical Progress released videos that seemed to be Planned Parenthood officials performing abortions and talking about selling the fetal tissue to researchers. Receiving profit from selling this tissue would be a federal crime. The Center for Medical Progress also accused Planned Parenthood of changing its abortion procedures in a way that would allow better fetal tissue to be saved.
Planned Parenthood’s response to these videos was an apology and a denial. They claimed the video was made using edited selections that inaccurately reflect what actually happens. Regardless of the truth of this situation, it has created a divide in politics and escalated an already controversial subject.
The Divide
There is a huge divide between what Republicans are seeing and choosing to talk about in regards to Planned Parenthood and what Planned Parenthood actually does and stands for.
For example, pro-life right-wing Republicans repeatedly refer to the amount of abortions that Planned Parenthood supposedly performs and points to that as a reason why it should be shut down. However, when looking at the facts, this isn’t a fair accusation.
Yes, Planned Parenthood performs abortions. However, defunding the organization wouldn’t make any difference because the federal money it receives cannot be used for abortions – with the exception of rape, incest and the mother’s endangerment. This means the money that would be taken away doesn’t affect the abortions it performs. It will actually affect the other services Planned Parenthood provides.
Republicans are also trying to exaggerate the amount of abortions Planned Parenthood does. Planned Parenthood has released information stating that only 3% of its services are abortions. This means 97% of its services are other important and necessary services that Republicans aren’t against. Fighting an entire organization based on 3% of its services doesn’t seem exactly fair.
What Republicans aren’t telling you is that Planned Parenthood also provides pap smears, breast exams, cancer screenings, contraceptive care, STD tests and treatment to women – and men – who need these services. It provides care and education to about 5 million people each year. Screening mammography, for example, can detect 75% of breast cancers in women aged 40-49 alone, and 90% in women in their 60s. Many of these women have no alternative healthcare options so turn to Planned Parenthood for help. Can we really afford to let these services go, services that are saving lives, because Republicans disagree with the 3%? Of course not!
Defunding Planned Parenthood would leave many people without access to the health care and education they need. For women without health insurance or access to a health care provider, Planned Parenthood is their only hope to receive medical attention. More than half of the clients on Planned Parenthood are living in the poverty level or below, and taking away their access to this care would be taking a huge step backwards in the fight for equal health care and women’s rights.
The Bottom Line
Planned Parenthood has disclosed that it performed 328,000 abortions last year out of the 1 million abortions performed nationwide. It also said it helps prevent 579,000 unwanted pregnancies each year through its services, education and outreach. Those numbers reveal it prevented almost double the amount of the abortions it performed. This means that without these services, unwanted pregnancies might occur, bringing the number of overall abortions performed in the United States way up.
It just doesn’t make sense to shut down an entire organization that does everything it can to prevent unwanted pregnancies and provide health care to those who need it simply because it also performs a relatively small number of abortions.
The Republicans’ fight to shut down and defund Planned Parenthood is based on a single factor when many other things should be taken into account. Planned Parenthood is an extremely important and effective organization that our society is lucky to have. Shutting it down will not stop abortions. What will happen is we will lose education and outreach, cancer and STDs will be left undiagnosed and untreated, unwanted pregnancies will occur at a higher rate with DIY abortions risking the lives of thousands of women, and people will be denied the services they need and deserve.  

Holly Whitman is a feminist writer and journalist living in Washington DC. You can find more of her writing at Only Slightly Biased or on Twitter at @hollykwhitman.

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