In 2014, Planned Parenthood provided nearly 10.6 million affordably priced health care services to more than five million patients. The vast majority of these services involve cancer screening, STD testing and contraception. Despite the diversity of services, opponents of Planned Parenthood have zeroed in on abortions, which constitute only three percent of services last year, yet remain Planned Parenthood’s biggest political case in the past few years. While opponents claim ethical and moral authority in their arguments, their stances and actions bear resemblance to blatant attacks on women’s freedom. The grievances held against Planned Parenthood are no different than those held a century ago. In 1914, the organization’s founder was arrested for distributing pamphlets on the street to promote birth control methods. Last week’s threat to defund Planned Parenthood is another clear demonstration against women’s reproductive rights. The current sensationalized opposition, especially in the case of abortions, does nothing but detract from women’s empowerment. Thousands of Americans protect guns fervently but turn their backs when it comes to protecting women’s reproductive rights.
Earlier this year, a pro-life group released a video in which Planned Parenthood officials discussed selling organs and tissue from aborted fetuses for profit. After Planned Parenthood asserted that the videos are edited, Congress launched an investigation. Investigations have found no evidence whatsoever that Planned Parenthood profits from selling fetal tissues, but the opposition does not seem to care about evidence. Not only does the opposition have no substantial evidence to prove the statements in the video, Planned Parenthood does not use federal funds to perform abortions unless the patients are the victims of rape, incest, or are facing major health problems, as dictated by the Hyde Amendment. Republicans attempted to defund an organization that supports women’s health based on unreliable and circumstantial evidence.
Undoubtedly, the highly private, personal choice of women has become a matter of debate in the public forum. In the past weeks, protesters on both sides have gathered outside government buildings. People turned up with signs of “If I turn my fetus into a corporation, will y’all stop regulating it?” and “Life begins at conception and ends at Planned Parenthood.” With the 2016 elections looming near, political figures too have taken the opportunity to earn supporters by attacking or defending the organization.
Republicans have announced their intention to shut down the government — in order to defund Planned Parenthood. The bill that Republicans hope to pass involves a nationwide ban on abortion at or after 20 weeks. Upon closer scrutiny it’s clear that the bill does not defend a moral cause, as many argue, but rather is a political strategy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1.3 percent of women perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This 1.3 percent largely consists of women who discover fetal abnormalities or health risks. Nevertheless, as the bill fails to protect women from health risks, it also fails to protect rape victims. In order to be able to have an abortion after 20 weeks, the proponents require that victims have reported the rape case to the police. This requirement is, of course, a barrier to protection; rape victims often suffer at the hands of relatives and bear a tremendous emotional burden, deterring them from ever reporting the case. The case against Planned Parenthood is inherently flawed. It’s a sensationalist argument that ignores women rights.
26 percent of the organization’s patients are teenagers and 75 percent of them have incomes near the federal poverty level. We need to move towards helping patients who are young or who would otherwise not be able to pay for more access to health care, instead of taking away their health care providers. Planned Parenthood receives approximately a third of its money in government grants and contracts, so that defunding could be devastating. Defunding would mean that fewer patients would receive cancer treatment, contraception, treatment for STDs and sexual education. The early detection of cancer is of paramount importance to its successful treatment and the organization currently helps more than 1.8 million people detect and treat cancer.
As a group of students who cares deeply about women’s reproductive rights, The Wellesley News Staff supports Planned Parenthood’s work to protect women’s health. This is one of many challenges that the reproductive rights movements has and will face, and we believe in the importance of supporting women’s power to control their own bodies in every single one of these cases. We are grateful to be part of a community that cares and discusses women’s rights passionately, that understands the urgency of declaring solidarity for reproductive rights. Along with public displays of support in form of cover photos and Facebook, we should lobby our Senators and Congressmen to protect Planned Parenthood. If we are true advocates of life, then let us celebrate an organization that prevents thousands of cancer deaths with early detection and let us celebrate an organization that offers women dignified lives by preventing long-term diseases and allows them to make decisions about their own bodies.