Forty-three years after Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood is under attack. In what has been called a War on Women and our reproductive health, the organization spent 2015 testifying before Congress, mourning the losses suffered after a shooting at their Colorado Springs clinic, and fighting—once again—to be able to provide affordable medical care to women and girls.
With a slew of misinformation circulating about Planned Parenthood—including apparently falsely edited videos masquerading as evidence that the organization profits off of unethical fetal tissue procurement and sales—it can be hard to know fact from fiction.
Here are six facts to keep in your arsenal as you fight for a woman’s right to her body and her health.
1. Planned Parenthood Is Not Just an Abortion Provider
Politics aside, all women deserve health care that is reliable, accessible, affordable, and thorough. Planned Parenthood is not just about providing legal abortions; in fact, according to their website, only 3% of annual services are abortion related.
Although the availability of specific services differs some from center to center, patients rely on Planned Parenthood to procure birth control and contraception, receive STD testing, PAP smears, pregnancy and prenatal care, get HIV testing and management, have consults about sexual health, and receive general medical care. They recently launched the Breast Health Initiative, through which they provide over 700,000 cancer screenings annually and strengthened their ability to provide cutting edge care by receiving grants for biopsies and other screening tools.
2. Women Seek Out Dangerous Alternatives When They Don’t Have Access to Safe, Legal Abortions
At the Washington Ideas Forum this fall, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reminded us that prohibiting abortions has dire consequences for women. “When I talk about 1955, I’m talking about a world where women died,” Warren warns. “I’m talking about a world where women committed suicide rather than go forward with a pregnancy they could not handle….we are not going back. Not now, not ever.” Warren does not exaggerate—in the 1950s, women douched with lye and Coca-Cola and pierced their uteruses with coat hangers. In pre-Roe v. Wade America, women and girls took matters into their own hands; unsurprisingly, more than 5,000 women died each year from unsafe abortions and their complications. They drank bleach, threw themselves down the stairs and into cars and furniture, sat in snow banks and ice baths, and tried at-home D&Cs with knitting needles and vacuums.
These methods are still employed by girls and women today where abortion is illegal—or so difficult to come by it might as well be.
3. Planned Parenthood Provides Crucial Community Education
As if providing medical care to staggering numbers of Americans isn’t enough, Planned Parenthood is also fully integrated in the communities in which it works and provides invaluable education. The organization provides resources for educators to aid in the creation, introduction, and assessment of sex education programming.
Resources teach educators about comprehensive sex education, an approach that begins teaching sex and sexuality related concepts in kindergarten and builds, at an age-appropriate level, and encourages students to form their own opinions and values over time. Planned Parenthood programs connect educators across the nation to the most up-to-date information, to lesson plans and discussion guides, and to each other.
4. Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Take Abortion Lightly
Healthcare providers focus primarily on choice and education, ensuring that women who find themselves unintentionally pregnant are made aware of all of their options. Women receive information on adoption, parenting, and abortion before they make their decisions and are treated with the respect, dignity, and kindness that all patients deserve.
Staff members familiarize patients who are under 18 with state laws about parental consent and whether or not a guardian needs to be made aware of their procedure and work with all patients to ensure they are making the best choice for themselves. Their website encourages pregnant women to “take time and think carefully” and remind women that their health centers care for women no matter what options they choose.
5. Planned Parenthood Serves Men, Too
Though Planned Parenthood is generally considered a women’s health organization, they are an important provider of men’s healthcare. Services provided for men include cancer screenings (colon, prostate, and testicular), treatment and diagnosis of ejaculatory and erectile dysfunction, vasectomies, infertility care, and STD treatment.
In June, Planned Parenthood took advantage of Men’s Health Week, seeking out the opportunity to speak publically about the importance of preventative care for men’s sexual health. The organization’s news brief on the subject reminds men that “looking out for your health and the health of your partner doesn’t have to take the ‘sexy’ out of sex,” and cautions men against their tendency to wait to seek medical care until they’re very sick or symptomatic. In efforts to increase accessibility and to encourage STD awareness, they even published a handy quiz that will help decide if you should seek care or get tested.
6. Planned Parenthood believes in an Intersectional Approach to Reproductive Care
President Cecile Richards took to Twitter this weekend to express how interconnected reproductive health is with other current issues, saying, “we can’t have [reproductive] justice without racial justice. Immigrant justice. LGBTQ equality. None of us will get free unless all of us get free!” Planned Parenthood Global health initiatives support care and education for women and girls in the developing world through working with international communities to provide contraception and adequately educate.
Domestically, Planned Parenthood works for and with underprivileged communities, ethnic and racial minorities, and the LGBTQ communities. The Latino Outreach Initiative, according to its website, works to promote sexual health amongst the community that “suffers disproportionately from STDs and is least likely to be insured”
by “increasing familiarity of and access to Planned Parenthood health services and mobilizing Latinos to advocate for progressive sexual and reproductive health care policies that affect them.”
Since Margaret Sanger opened the first American contraception clinic in Brooklyn in 1916, Planned Parenthood has been fighting for the reproductive and medical rights of women. In the 1930s, Sanger and the earliest iteration of Planned Parenthood fought for the rights of married women looking to obtain birth control as a means of family planning. In the 1950s and 60s, Planned Parenthood’s work contributed to the creation of the pill and IUD. In the early 1970s, in accordance with a radical new law, the Syracuse Planned Parenthood clinic offered the organization’s first abortions and the International program began. In the 80s, Planned Parenthood spoke out against the Reagan Administration’s attempts to fetishize the past and take giant steps backwards in women’s health. In the early 90s, Planned Parenthood continued to provide care after abortion and healthcare providers were murdered across the country.
Today, one in five American women will seek out care at a Planned Parenthood clinic. The work of this organization is absolutely vital to girls, to women, and to men. Planned Parenthood has fought for 100 years—through attacks on women’s health in every era—and it will not stop now. We cannot afford to go backwards, so we must now defend Planned Parenthood just as they have defend us for so long—tirelessly, courageously, and heroically.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.