Defending Planned Parenthood

President Donald Trump made headlines recently for informing Planned Parenthood that the organization could retain federal funding if it agreed to cease all abortion services. In true Planned Parenthood form of staunchly protecting women’s health care rights, the group refused. It is imperative that Planned Parenthood continue to be allowed to provide the services that it currently offers to women and men alike. The federal government cannot be allowed to interfere with the personal health rights of American women.

The proposal that was made to Planned Parenthood is based on the fallacy that federal funding pays for its abortion services, which is completely erroneous. The organization does receive almost $500 million a year in federal funds, but these dollars all go toward women’s health care, none of them paying for abortion services. Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, spoke out and confirmed this, saying, “Let’s be clear: Federal funds already do not pay for abortions … Providing critical health care services for millions of American women is non-negotiable.” Indeed, Planned Parenthood is a necessary part of American society, as it provides much-needed health care to many women who could not get it elsewhere. Abortion is hardly the point.

According to Planned Parenthood, a miniscule 3 percent of the services it provides in any given year are abortion services. The remaining 97 percent include prenatal care, contraception, adoption referrals, STD testing, and cancer screenings. This is not an entirely precise figure, as women who receive multiple services are counted separately for each one, but the fact remains that Planned Parenthood provides far less abortions than it does other health services.

It seems important to reiterate that absolutely no taxpayer dollars pay for abortions provided by Planned Parenthood, and that such taxpayers, including the president, should not have a say in the health services provided for other Americans. This is intrinsically connected to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which is largely about a woman’s right to privacy. Laws criminalizing abortion were determined to violate constitutional rights, and the Supreme Court decided that a “zone of privacy [is] broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” This privacy and the right of a woman to make her own decision were thereby protected by the Constitution. If Planned Parenthood provides general health services with federal funds and abortion services with private funds, the debate over its funding should not really be an issue of pro-life or pro-choice. Women have the constitutional right to privately do as they will with their own bodies, and Planned Parenthood allows them to do so.

Asking Planned Parenthood to discontinue any abortion services in order to keep federal funding violates the private health care rights of half the American population. Had Planned Parenthood not refused to comply with the Trump administration’s proposition, the health of many women throughout the country would have been adversely affected. People may object to abortion on moral grounds, and of course it is their right to do so. But is it their right to impose those moral beliefs on others and attempt to remove their health care? No.

For anyone who believes in protecting the rights of their fellow citizens, it should seem a natural conclusion to support women’s rights to all forms of health care. Yet, for some, this is not a simple situation. The morality of protecting universal health care rights often just vanishes when abortion enters the equation, even though it is just one more form of women’s health care that women ought to have the right to.

As President Trump stated regarding the Planned Parenthood proposal, he is pro-life and also “deeply committed to investing in women’s health … while not providing abortion services.” But is abortion not also women’s health? Planned Parenthood believes so, according to the group’s president Cecile Richards, who called abortion a “necessary service that’s as vital to our mission as birth control or cancer screenings.” In a different statement, Richards said that this demand to stop abortions is “part of the longstanding effort to end women’s access to safe, legal abortion.”

Being invested in women’s health, as the president phrased his commitment, is not something that can be half-done. Picking and choosing what kinds of health care to provide is simply wrong. Maintaining access to “safe and legal” abortions is just as vital to women’s health as guaranteeing other health services such as STD testing and cancer screenings. Women have a right to effective and supportive health care, as well as the privacy to receive what care they need without being penalized. The misunderstanding and defunding of Planned Parenthood could have incredibly harmful repercussions on women throughout the U.S.

The White House’s proposal shows either an ignorance of what Planned Parenthood’s federal funds are actually used for, or an intentional misleading of the American people to believe that their taxpayer dollars are being used to fund abortions. Either way, the proposition that the organization stops abortion services in order to retain federal funding would not end abortions, and would accomplish nothing but the halting of funds used to pay for non-abortion services that save many lives. Planned Parenthood’s refusal underscores their commitment to providing women with the essential health care they need. This indispensable institution, rather than the current White House administration, appears to have the best interests of the health of America’s women in mind.

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor