Planned Parenthood has always been controversial, but never more so than in recent months. Following the leak of videos, which said to have been altered, the organization attracted an onslaught of opposition by pro-life advocates across the country, particularly among Republican policymakers. The videos, which appeared to show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetuses from abortions, went viral, and have become a major talking point in the Republican presidential primary. Outside of the race, however, the issue became a portent of extreme stalemate in Congress, threatening a government shutdown. In states such as Texas, the videos have been used as a justification to withdraw Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood clinics, and other states have introduced measures to follow suit. While a looming government shutdown is certainly a problem, the impact that defunding Planned Parenthood would have on the nation as a whole is incomprehensible.
Planned Parenthood is often misconstrued as an abortion hub, but in fact abortions make up a small portion of the services they provide. For the most part, it is a provider of STI testing, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings, and birth control. It’s estimated that Planned Parenthood has served 20% of American women at some point in their lives. The majority of its services are aimed at general women’s health issues, not specifically abortion. Despite this, it has become a habit of the right to classify it as an evil institution that only aims to provide abortions and, following the recent videos, sells the fetuses as a result. The videos released beginning in July have shown supposed negotiations of the cost of an aborted fetus, footage of stillborn infants made to appear to be aborted, and accounts of those who conducted research on fetal tissue within the legal realm.
This mischaracterization of Planned Parenthood has become a central topic in this year’s budget debates. Throughout the past month, Republicans in Congress have demanded that in the new fiscal year the federal government defund Planned Parenthood. The aggregate annual federal, state, and local government funds to Planned Parenthood are $528.4 million. The debate appears to have come down to abortions, but what is commonly ignored is the amount of other services that would be lost should the government defund the organization, which draws 41% of its revenue from government funding. The organization is largely dependent on these government funds to provide services nationwide, but only 3% of its services are actually dedicated to abortions, which is the issue at the heart of the matter. The defunding of Planned Parenthood would likely not touch abortion resources, but would rather affect the organization’s three main services: STI treatment and testing (42% of funding), contraception (34% of funding), and cancer screening and prevention (9% of funding). Defunding such an extensive organization would harm the movement for women’s health nation wide. Placing the morality of abortion aside, defunding Planned Parenthood would cause millions of Americans to suffer without adequate healthcare and screening services, only to stop a practice that government funds hardly contribute to.
Essentially, women’s health has become a target in the political sphere, and the cost is huge. The 125,000 young women who utilize the organization’s crisis hotline annually would be left with one less outlet. The arguably most powerful voice in the women’s lobby would be reduced to a whisper in the face of legal action. The over one million women outside of the U.S. who were provided with health care and advice at the hands of Planned Parenthood will be left back at square one. Finally, the over 500,000 women who seek cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood will be forced to find other, less accessible options.
The use of such an important and impactful organization as a political pawn is dangerous, not just from a PR standpoint but from a national welfare standpoint. The fact that this organization, which provides necessary healthcare options to all women, has become a political pawn and a scapegoat tells of the downward spiral of American politics. Something so key to women’s health should not be slandered publicly and attacked on all fronts. Should Planned Parenthood be defunded because of the politicized and false hype created by Republicans, the whole country will pay a price.