Venkata: The politics of women’s health

Planned Parenthood provides an array of health services to women, however, all of the services it offers are completely necessary.

by Uma Venkata

On Feb. 22, NPR reported the Department of Health and Human Services issued the rule that “any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions is ineligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception.” This directly damages Planned Parenthood and everyone whose health it takes care of.

I think it is important for everyone to know — male, female, conservative and liberal — that Planned Parenthood provides much more than abortions. Cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood on the grounds of abortion is like shutting down all musical concerts on the grounds of Taylor Swift, except much more life-threatening. 

Unfortunately, what this indicates to those who are making these rules is that delivering babies is really the only thing that matters about women. For the fraction of women who approach Planned Parenthood for pregnancy termination, they must obey laws made by totally uninvolved people. (Please remember that not everyone wants to get an abortion. Undergoing abortion can be the lowest, most harrowing point in a person’s life.) If some women don’t obey those restrictive abortion laws, many more women will not receive basic health care they need. And I do mean need.

Women are humans too. Conveniently, the people who need to be told this understand that women are not exactly the same as men. Inconveniently, they have to be told that women require different medical treatment than men, but just as much medical dedication as men receive. And because women are also people, those services matter just as much as the other sex’s do. Do you service a motorcycle the same way as you service a car? Of course not. Are they equally as important? Of course they are. 

Planned Parenthood offers men’s health services, LGBTQ services, birth control, HIV treatment, pregnancy testing, patient education, women’s health services and STI testing, treatment and vaccines. These are all quite expected from a developed society. Every one of them is extremely important, but there is one particular thing I’d like to bring to your attention. 

Contraction rates for sexually transmitted infections have been rising for the last four years, according to Centers for Disease Control data. Now, long-term contraception like IUDs weakens the fear of pregnancy, abstinence-only education is of course still here and the HIV scare is no longer — so sexual caution is a little more relaxed. But while we’re chilling out about STIs, gonorrhea is becoming antibiotic-resistant

It is also important not to rape women. Victims of sexual assault are often forced into having babies they do not want and cannot afford. In the eyes of the law, taking off a condom without a partner’s knowledge is rape, according to a 2017 article in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

In character on “Veep,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus said that if men got pregnant, you could get an abortion at an ATM. If you don’t think that’s hilarious, maybe you haven’t been grappling with the risk of your life being upended with every sexual encounter or maybe you’re not a woman who has sex with men. I have nothing against men. In fact, I like them a lot. But I don’t like anyone, of any sex, telling the other sex they know more about their body than the person with the actual body does. 

What this all means is that Planned Parenthood is vital. Medicine saves lives. That should not be an issue here. It’s pretty medieval that some still consider it one.