In defense of Planned Parenthood
It’s Women’s History Month, and Congress is having a party. Members of Congress plan to celebrate by cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood, effectively leaving millions of low-income women and men without family planning services and life-saving screenings and treatments. This bill not only affects Planned Parenthood, but also affects the budgets of Title X clinics, support for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and other programs that provide prenatal healthcare, which serve millions of low-income women and children each year.
While the central issue surrounding Planned Parenthood is abortion—for which no federal funding is allotted—it is important to realize that the organization provides so many other crucial benefits. Pulling their funding without a backup plan the epitome of irresponsibility. Put aside the abortion debate for a second and take a look at the bigger picture: HIV and cancer screenings, reproductive health checkups, counseling, contraception and family planning. There exists no other organization with the scope—800 clinics nationwide—or impact of Planned Parenthood in these areas, and when the funding goes, so do these critical services.
Putting the abortion debate back on the table, Planned Parenthood provides a safety net for women in impossible situations. Let’s be honest; sometimes, even when having responsible sex, the condom breaks or the pill doesn’t work as well as it should. Life is full of slip-ups, and it is better to have a safe, supportive and educative environment for young women than to force them into a situation where they feel their only options are a dangerous back-room abortion or suicide. Keep in mind, however, that Planned Parenthood does not advocate abortion, but rather educates women or young families of their options, which, while including abortion consist of keeping the baby, or carrying the baby to term and putting it up for adoption in the event that they are unwilling or unable to take care of the child.
What is even more ironic about this resolution is that conservative advocates want to stop funding WIC, which would allow those low-income women who choose to have their babies to raise them healthily. This is the Republicans’ plan to “fix” the ongoing budget crisis: force women who cannot afford to raise a child to carry their babies to term and then pull any financial support system out from under them. While perhaps saving money in the short run, the long-term medical costs associated with malnourished children are surely greater than programs that would prevent any such complications. Apparently, everyone has the right to live, but not necessarily in health or security.
Because they are “pro-life,” conservatives have also stipulated a provision in the bill that would allow hospitals to deny the use of federal funds for an abortion that would save a woman’s life. There are unfortunate instances in which a woman’s body is too weak to carry a baby to term, and in order to save at least one life an abortion is necessary. In the event that the mother cannot afford an abortion, these federal funds are the only shot she has at survival, and denying them to her is as good as a death sentence.
Instead of setting women’s rights back half a century, let’s celebrate Women’s History Month by honoring the progress made in the past and by realizing the potential that the future holds. There is still much headway to be made for women in the realm of equal pay, status and universal childcare—things that would, much to the joy of both liberals and conservatives, decrease the abortion rate—and the only way to achieve these aspirations is to build off of what we already have. Conservatives need to understand that the budget crisis will not be solved by cutting funding for programs that support low-income women, but instead by using the existing funding to empower women to be self-sufficient.
Only then will women and children not have to rely so heavily on the government-funded programs that are said to be draining the resources of the state.