Simineri: Defending Planned Parenthood

by Nicole Simineri | 9/17/15 8:19pm

After the anti-abortion-rights Center for Medical Progress released a video earlier this summer that allegedly showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting and selling of the organs of aborted fetuses, much of the backlash against Planned Parenthood has been severe. Many people, including lawmakers in several states, have called for an end to federal funding for the organization. This is not the first time that anti-choice organizations have released such videos and stirred criticism against Planned Parenthood, and it likely will not be the last. Not only are these videos and their content unfounded, but they have also blurred and threatened the larger picture of what Planned Parenthood stands for — namely, the reproductive health of both men and women.

After the videos were made public, the Department of Health and Human Services conducted an investigation into Planned Parenthood and found “no known violations of the country’s fetal tissue laws.” Despite this, many states — including Indiana, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Pennsylvania, among others — have conducted their own investigations, and all have likewise found no evidence of illegal activity. Evidence has also surfaced that those asking questions in the videos are, in fact, hired actors looking to slander the organization.

Additionally, though many associate Planned Parenthood with providing abortion services, the organization estimates that abortions account for only about 328,000 — a mere three percent — of the almost 10.6 million services Planned Parenthood provided last year. As some journalists, such as Michelle Ye Hee Lee, have noted, the three percent statistic is misleading, with some sources estimating the more accurate number to be approximately 12 percent. Regardless, this is still a small number compared to the number of critical health services that Planned Parenthood provides, including contraception, cancer screening and STI and STD testing and treatment. Contrary to what many believe, these services are not limited only to women — men can also receive such services as vasectomies and colon, prostate and testicular cancer screenings.

Yet, in the aftermath of the fetal tissue trafficking allegations, the fact that Planned Parenthood does so much more than abortion seems to have been forgotten. The video has unleashed a new string of attacks against Planned Parenthood facilities, including but not limited to the arson of a Planned Washington clinic this month. To some anti-choice individuals and organizations, providing a medical procedure that ends the potentiality of life evidentially justifies threatening the lives of Planned Parenthood employees.

Moreover, regardless of whether three percent or 99 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion-related, the argument calling for its defunding because it provides abortions has no basis in economic or legal reality. Of the federal and state funding that Planned Parenthood receives, almost none goes toward abortions. In fact, only 17 states allow funding to go toward abortion with the strict condition that those abortions are “medically necessary.” As such, successful attempts to defund Planned Parenthood are, in reality, defunding largely non-abortion services.

It is one thing to be personally opposed to abortion and even fight for its illegalization — but it is another matter entirely to viciously target an organization that provides safe and legal abortions and thereby limit access to the various other health services this organization provides. Yet it appears that the majority of Republican leaders have either ignored or failed to realize this, putting Planned Parenthood on the defensive as they fight against bills in numerous states that would strip them of federal funding. In New Hampshire, Planned Parenthood has already lost this battle after a decision by the state’s entirely male Executive Council to defund it. Alabama and Louisiana have likewise defunded the organization, jeopardizing men’s and women’s access to affordable healthcare. The baseless war against Planned Parenthood continues to rage on.

Regardless of one’s stance on abortion, Planned Parenthood undoubtedly provides vital health services that many low-income men and women would otherwise be unable to afford. A loss for Planned Parenthood is not just a loss for abortion rights — it is a loss for men’s and women’s health.