Attacks on Planned Parenthood are as inescapable as death and taxes.
The most recent episode in this never-ending effort began with a doctored tape of an interview obtained under false pretenses . But let’s ignore the dishonesty. Let’s assume that medical employees of the organization were flip and “cold blooded” in their conversations about fetal tissue research—which is essentially the message the editing was intended to convey.
What facts would that change?
As the unedited tapes clearly show, and subsequent investigations confirm, Planned Parenthood isn’t selling fetal tissue or profiting from its use in medical research. Some affiliates, in states where the practice is legal, are assisting medical researchers by making such tissue available when the patient has authorized it, and being reimbursed for the costs incurred in that process.
The availability of embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue for research has led to cures for many diseases and saved many lives. As with stem cells, the choice is between using fetal tissue for lifesaving research or destroying it. Which of those options is truly “pro life”? Much the same moral calculus is involved when transplant surgeons harvest organs from people who’ve just died in order to prolong the lives of those with organ failures. (Most of us wouldn’t care to watch either grisly procedure.)
More to the point, most of Planned Parenthood’s services have absolutely nothing to do with abortion.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky treats 65,000 patients annually, the vast majority of whom are low-income women who would not otherwise get needed Pap tests, breast exams, STD testing and treatment, and birth control. A not-insignificant number are low-income men who come for testicular cancer exams.
The importance of the testing services provided by Planned Parenthood became painfully obvious when state funding cuts forced closure of Scott County’s Planned Parenthood, in southern Indiana, leaving the county without a testing facility. The resulting HIV epidemic is costing the state far more than it “saved” by closing the clinic—and that doesn’t take into account the likely increase in teen pregnancies or the negative health consequences for poor women unable to afford pap smears and other lifesaving services.
Proponents of defunding Planned Parenthood glibly assert that these services can be provided elsewhere. They can’t. Not only is there no other network or organization with the capacity to replace Planned Parenthood, there is no other organization willing to raise significant private funds—as Planned Parenthood does—to supplement inadequate government funding and ensure that women are not denied health care simply because they can’t pay for it.
These recent attacks on Planned Parenthood are part and parcel of what has been called–aptly– a “war on women.” Over the past five years, state-level lawmakers have passed nearly 300 new restrictions on reproductive health access. A report from the Roosevelt Institute lays it out:
In the first quarter of 2015, lawmakers in 43 states introduced a total of 332 provisions to restrict abortion access, which is increasingly out of reach for women throughout the country. Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has dramatically improved women’s health coverage and access. In the fall of 2013, the party orchestrated a costly government shutdown motivated by their opposition to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. And in June, House Republicans proposed eliminating funding for Title X, the federal family planning program.
When conservatives talk about “women’s health” funding, they aren’t talking about funding for abortion. Federal law already prohibits public dollars from being spent on abortion or abortion-related care. They’re talking about funding for family planning and other reproductive health services (pregnancy counseling, cancer screenings, STD treatment, etc.), which mainly comes through Medicaid and Title X, two programs that are consistently in conservative crosshairs.
So here’s the bottom line.
Genuinely pro-life people can oppose abortion and still support the other life-saving work done by Planned Parenthood—which is the only work being funded with tax dollars. Of course, if what they really oppose is women’s moral autonomy, as the efforts to restrict access to birth control strongly suggest, then the deaths of poor women denied access to critical medical care is just unavoidable collateral damage.
At the end of the day, there’s reality and there’s rhetoric. The reality is that women did not start getting abortions after Roe v. Wade. They just stopped dying from them.
Research confirms that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is by providing women with reliable birth control–and the best way to reduce deaths from abortion is by supporting high quality clinics like those operated by Planned Parenthood.