On Saturday, January 21st, the day after President Trump’s Inauguration, the Women’s March took place and broke the record as the world’s biggest inaugural protest in history, with over 1 million people participating worldwide. The march called for gender equality, protection of LGBT+ rights, climate change, and addressing police brutality, as well as the protection of Planned Parenthood which is being threatened by the Trump Administration.
On January 23rd, President Trump reinstated the “Global Gag Rule,” which prohibits American money from being used towards non-government international health organizations (NGOs) that use abortion as a family planning option. While the Helms Agreement of 1973 states that federal tax dollars cannot be spent on abortions overseas, the Global Gag Rule takes this a step further by banning all aid for NGOs that even refer to abortion as an option, even if they use their own money to do so.
While I don’t think abortion should necessarily be a first-line treatment option for women, I believe that funding for Planned Parenthood is extremely important not only to women’s health but also to making healthcare more accessible to those in need. Other than abortions, Planned Parenthood offers services such as STD testing, health and sex education, and testing specific to women’s health such as: pelvic exams, breast cancer screenings, and pap tests (for early detection of diseases such as cervical cancer). Contrary to popular belief, Planned Parenthood is not predominantly an abortion service provider, as about 3% of the 9.5 million total services by Planned Parenthood were reported as abortions in 2014 (PlannedParenthood.org). 45% of the services were STD treatments and prevention, while another 31% were for various contraception services.
It’s also important to note that Planned Parenthood isn’t given an annual check for its funding. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood basically means that the services Planned Parenthood provides will not be reimbursed by Medicaid, the government health care provider for low income families. How payment work at Planned Parenthood is that someone will come in for a certain service, and will pay the copay. After the service is complete, Planned Parenthood will file for reimbursement on the federal and state level, very similar to how regular health insurance works. According to the 2014-2015 annual report published by Planned Parenthood, they received $553.7 million in reimbursements and government grants. But of that $553.7 million, none went towards abortions. The Hyde Amendment of 1976 has made sure that federal tax dollars are not allowed to be spent on abortions for medicaid unless in extremely narrow and rare cases of rape or a danger to the mother’s life.
According to plannedparenthoodaction.org, if Planned Parenthood is shut down, many government-provided insurance holders will have no other place to turn to for healthcare. 20% of counties that have a Planned Parenthood clinic have no alternative options for low income families. If shut down, 60% of Planned Parenthood’s patients that are on publicly funded health care plans such as Title X or Medicaid will be blocked from receiving care.
While there is a nationwide difference in opinion on the acceptance of abortion, there is one thing that is certain: Planned Parenthood does much more than only provide abortion treatments, as they provide many necessary women’s health services as well as necessary testing to men. For many, Planned Parenthood has provided a safe environment to receive the care that they need. It is also important to note that defunding Planned Parenthood or other abortion service providers will not prevent self-induced abortions. For example, Texas is known to have one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, and as a result have caused many clinics have to close. According to LA Times, these policies decreased the amount of women that use medication for an abortion by nearly 70%. Currently, the entire state only has 10 clinics to serve the needs of about 5.4 million women in the state. According to the Texas Study Evaluation Project, nearly 240,000 women in the state of Texas alone had attempted to self induce abortion. Of those women, many had performed self-induced abortion due to being unable to obtain professional, reproductive services. The study further concludes that if more abortion clinics close, more women, especially those who are unable to afford such services, will become inclined to self-induce abortion, which is both illegal and extremely unsafe. Cutting off Planned Parenthood entirely won’t stop abortions from happening, but rather it will prevent safe and legal abortions from taking place.
As a future physician, I believe that every human should have access to health care. I understand why those against abortion do not believe that Planned Parenthood deserves their support, but it’s also important to focus on how many lives Planned Parenthood saves in the process. By providing affordable contraception to women, this prevents the need for an abortion in the first place. By educating the youth completely, they’re more likely to take precaution and prevent an unplanned pregnancy in the first place. While I do not think that abortion should be the first choice of treatment, a pregnant woman in danger should have a right to exercise her choice. Planned Parenthood deserves to be acknowledged for all of the good it does, and not just be shamed for its controversial services. For many years, Planned Parenthood has provided a safe environment to receive reproductive testing and care, not just abortions.