Planned Parenthood can save a woman’s life

Defunding the organization is not the “pro-life” achievement it seems to be.

Alia Jeraj

Since the release of highly-edited videos appearing to depict Planned Parenthood representatives participating in the illegal sale of fetal tissue, there has been uproar about the organization. A campaign led by the GOP recently culminated with the United States House of Representatives voting Wednesdayto defund it. 
 
Many are celebrating this move as a positive step along the “pro-life” path. However, supporters of that line of thinking are choosing to remain woefully ignorant about the actual circumstances surrounding Planned Parenthood and its services. 
 
In 1973, abortion became legal in the U.S. after the famous Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. Four years later, the Hyde Amendment went into effect, stating that people could not use Medicaid to ease the financial cost of receiving an abortion, except in cases of incest, rape or saving the life of the mother.
 
Let me restate that: for the past 28 years, zero federal dollars have gone to supporting abortion in this country, except to save the life of a sentient woman or in the face of the atrocity of rape. 
 
So, if Planned Parenthood is currently receiving funding from the U.S. government, but we’ve established that none of that money is used to perform abortions, what other legal services would the House deny to U.S. citizens by choosing to defund Planned Parenthood? To name a few, there are sexually transmitted disease tests and
treatments, pregnancy tests, breast exams, pap tests and birth control services. 
 
The majority of anti- Planned Parenthood sentiments stem from “pro-life” sympathies. I hear, “Women should not have the right to choose to undergo a legal medical procedure!” through the thinly veiled cries of, “Life begins at conception!” or “Smile! Your mom chose life.” 
 
It seems to me that the goal of the “pro-life” movement is to reduce the number of abortions that happen. It just so happens that because abortion has been such a contested issue over the past few decades, there have been numerous studies done on the effects of various factors to reduce abortion rates. 
 
Time after time, research has proven that raising awareness about and access to contraceptive methods decreases the number of unwanted pregnancies in a population, thereby also reducing the number of abortions. 
 
Planned Parenthood carries bragging rights as “one of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men and young people, and the nation’s largest provider of sex education.” 
 
By taking money away from this organization, which provides birth control services to about 3.5 million women each year, the GOP is in fact hindering its so-called “pro-life” 
campaign.  
 
More to the point of reducing abortion rates in general, multiple studies have found that there are actually fewer abortions per live births in countries where abortion is legal. 
Thus, by working to defund Planned Parenthood and delegalize abortion, “pro-life” supporters are actually working antithetically to their goal of “saving” fetuses. 
 
Now, in defense of their policies, Republicans in the House have made statements such as that of Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who said, “Planned Parenthood can get their money back if they fully commit to what they talk about — women’s health care — and stop performing abortions for this year.”
 
Remarks such as these show the absolutely inexcusable level of ignorance that pervades our political system. By insinuating that Planned Parenthood does not support women’s health care because it offers abortions as a part of its clinical services, Black is demonstrating either a complete unawareness of or an unconscionable disregard for
the facts detailing the inextricable ties of abortion to women’s health.
 
When abortion is illegal, not only does it occur at a higher rate, but women subject themselves to hugely more dangerous procedures. Worldwide, some 68,000 women die each year due to complications arising from unsafe abortions. In fact, unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. 
 
Moreover, of the women who survive an unsafe procedure, one-fourth of them will suffer negative long-term health complications. To deny that abortion is a women’s health issue is unacceptable, especially from a member of our federal government. 
 
As debates and threats of yet another government shutdown continue, our policymakers must stop ignoring the facts surrounding Planned Parenthood and its many services. 
 
If the GOP and “pro-life” supporters truly wish to reduce the number of abortions in this country, they have got to release their ungrounded notions of what progress looks like, and instead embrace signals that have been proven indicators of success across the globe. 
 
Rather than defaming the organization as a group of “baby killers,” it’s time to embrace the work of Planned Parenthood as not only mutually inclusive of but also directly supportive of the “pro-life” movement to reduce abortion rates. 
 
It is only with the rejection of ignorance in favor of attitudes of acceptance and understanding that we can hope to achieve this goal together.