Editor’s Note: This piece is meant to create a dialogue surrounding issues regarding women’s health and politics. If you’d like to write an op-ed with your thoughts on these topics, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because of my religious conception of personhood and morality, I personally don’t support abortion; I’m what most would call “pro-life.” And so by many accounts, I should be absolutely and vehemently opposed to the organization Planned Parenthood. The fact that Planned Parenthood (PP) clinics perform abortions have put them in the center of news stories and political controversy around election season. People march in the streets proclaiming their evil and politicians advocate for their defunding. But despite everything telling me I’m supposed to be opposed to the existence of PP, I can’t help but realize reasons I find them worth supporting.
First of all, Planned Parenthood provides an array of valuable women’s health services besides abortions. In 2012, Planned Parenthood performed over 490,000 pap smears. They served millions with STI/STD testing treatments. They treated over 50,000 urinary tract infections. Clinics also offer birth control, a variety of cancer screenings, sex education. Planned Parenthood reports that abortions made up only 3% of their services.
I understand that, for some, that 3% is enough to discount every other service provided. But for me, I can’t help but value those women, real women living real lives, who were given health services at those clinics. These cancer screenings could be potentially lifesaving. Sexual education helped women take better care of their bodies. Treatment for infections made life a little more livable.
In an ideal world, women’s health clinics would be easily available and affordable all over the nation, but this is not the current reality. Especially for women in low income areas, Planned Parenthood may be the best, or only, option available. After Planned Parenthood funding was cut in Florida, women’s health plummeted to being tied for worst in the nation. Mic.com reported that almost a third of counties did not even have ob-gyns at all. After efforts to defund PP in Texas, healthcare organizations served 54% fewer clients than they had in the previous period. Similar events transpired in Kansas, where funds diverted from Planned Parenthood have not made their way to local clinics. No matter my stance on abortion, I can’t deny that I want women, and especially low-income women, to have easy access to health facilities, and Planned Parenthood is a well-known provider for these services.
In addition to that, the services offered could possibly lower the need for abortions. To me, being “pro-life” means supporting both the lives of potential children and the lives of the mothers who will raise them. By offering sexual education and contraception, I would think Planned Parenthood can help prevent unwanted pregnancies. Offering cancer screenings and other health services can help keep those mothers and potential mothers healthy. I want a world with accessible prenatal care, extended maternity leave, and guaranteed healthcare, but those are at the twinkle-in-an-eye stage of political bill birth, and so we might be waiting a while. In the complicated puzzle of the way we treat pregnancy, it seems Planned Parenthood is an important piece.
Finally, I just find it hard to buy the efforts to demonize Planned Parenthood. Opponents argue that it uses tax-payer money to pay for abortions, but reports show that no government funding is used to pay for those procedures. Others point to recent videos released alleging practices of selling fetal tissue of aborted fetuses. Though the practices of any health provider should be looked into for the sake of transparency and safety, many news outlets are reporting these videos to be edited or false. The use of fetal tissue for medical research is a debate of its own right, but according to research done by a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center, there is no profit being made off of the transport of fetal tissue, and there is thus no reason to specifically go after Planned Parenthood.
Ultimately, any discussion of Planned Parenthood, abortion, and fetal tissue is tricky. Such a polarizing issue makes it difficult to find unbiased sources or separate emotional anecdotes from research and fact. New developments in the way we treat women’s healthcare or revelations in the practices of Planned Parenthood’s practices could end up changing my mind and the mind of others. But for now, for me, being pro-life doesn’t necessarily mean ending Planned Parenthood, it just means supporting women’s health.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.