Many of us saw this coming. Because, frankly, it’s common sense. When you take away programs that educate, protect, and provide healthcare for millions of Americans who may not receive that education, protection, or healthcare otherwise, the repercussions aren’t going to be good.
Yet, in the name of… Christianity? Protecting tax dollars? Morals? Values? And, of course, “saving lives,” the relentless campaign against Planned Parenthood continues and has effectively shut down many of their valuable health centers around the country.
– birth control for nearly two million people
– over 4.2 million STD tests and treatments
– over 320,000 breast exams
– nearly 295,000 Pap tests
Ironic, isn’t it? Hypocritical even? Because what does birth control prevent? Unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. What do STD tests and treatments prevent and treat? Harmful or potential fatal diseases. What do breast exams and Pap tests detect? Cancer that will need medical intervention to save lives.
So here were are, in 2020, still fighting with stubborn anti-abortion activists over the same basic points: Planned Parenthood does far more than provide abortion services. In fact, many of the shuttered clinics around the nation were not even ones that performed the procedure at all. What they were doing, however, before having their doors closed was reducing and preventing abortions by offering education, protection, and birth control, among other health services.
Finally—and this one’s a real sticking point—abortions have taken place since the dawn of mankind. And they will still continue to take place. Defunding Planned Parenthood will not stop them. They will only make them less safe. And, as statistics are now showing, removing programs like those offered by Planned Parenthood actually increases the rates of teen pregnancies. Guess what option many teens will turn to when faced with an unwanted pregnancy? You guessed it.
Round and round we go.
Let’s look at the state of Texas, for example. Prior to 2011, the teen birth rate in Texas had fallen by an impressive 44% between 1988 and 2011. But that year former Texas Governor Rick Perry slashed the family planning budget by 67% (from $111 million to $37.9) during which 82 clinics were closed statewide (none of which performed abortions, by the way). And in the years that followed, interestingly but not surprisingly, the teen birth rate went back up.
In a state that already has a high percentage of abstinence-only sex ed and, as an equally depressing alternative, no sexual education at all, closing Planned Parenthood clinics is just another door shut in the face of young women who need it. It’s just another way for conservative Americans to cross their arms and turn away, refusing to acknowledge that like it or not, girls and young women have sex. They always have. They always will. And they need education, protection, birth control, and health care.
Another disastrous effect seen in Texas is that pregnancy-related deaths doubled after the state stopped reimbursing Planned Parenthood and imposed drastic funding cuts for women’s health. How’s that for being “pro-life?”
On the other hand, let’s look at Colorado, where the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation gave the state $23 million over six years to provide free or low-cost contraception to low-income women. The results were telling. The teen birth rate dropped 40% from 2009 to 2013, while the teen abortion rate fell 42%. And the abortion rate for all women fell 34%.
That’s one of the many valuable things Planned Parenthood does for women—provides them with contraception so they can prevent unwanted pregnancies, continue with their education, and make their own choice of if and when they’d like to become mothers.
But you know what? This is far more than a debate about abortion. Because the truth is, Planned Parenthood is often the only healthcare option for women in this country, and if PP health centers can’t provide care for them, nobody will. In fact, in more than 20% of the counties where Planned Parenthood health centers operate, there are no other health care providers who serve patients who rely on safety-net providers. The bottom line is that so many women and girls have nowhere else to go.
“Family planning clinics are a lifeline for many low-income and rural women. Four in ten women who go to family planning centers describe the clinics as their only source of medical care,” a USA Today article reports.
Four in ten.
How again are we “making America great” when we defund and force clinics to permanently close their doors, causing girls and young women around the nation to be less safe and at a greater risk of harm, illness, or death because their safety net is gone?
Also, another common retort those against Planned Parenthood use is that other healthcare providers can and will “absorb” Planned Parenthood’s patients. Here’s why that’s false and frankly a dangerous mindset to have. As explained on I Stand With Planned Parenthood, “Providers of ob-gyn care who accept Medicaid, such as Planned Parenthood, are in particularly short supply. In addition, Planned Parenthood health centers are more likely than other safety-net family planning providers to provide the full range of birth control (including IUDs and implants) on-site and more likely to offer rapid-result HIV testing.” Even The American Public Health Association says it’s “ludicrous” for politicians to claim that other providers could simply absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients.
It’s not just about birth control and pregnancies either. An article in USA Today reported that among the five health centers closed in Indiana, one was in rural Scott County, which also happens to be the epicenter of the worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history.
“Treating those infected in the epidemic will cost more than $100 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the USA Today reports. Like many PP clinics, the one in Scott County provided HIV testing and referrals to care in an area with a shortage of doctors and limited medical resources. Now it’s gone.
Side note: like the other Indiana health centers that have shut down, this clinic also did not perform abortions.
That’s what is happening here. So many resources and much-needed aid are being stripped away from Americans in need, all in the name of a hot-button political issue. At the end of the day, the nationwide defunding and barrage of attacks on Planned Parenthood is hurting America, not making it great.
Here’s where we are on a national scale. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2013, publicly funded family planning services like those Planned Parenthood provides helped women prevent two million unintended pregnancies and 693,000 abortions. Without these valuable services, rates of unintended pregnancies, unplanned births, and abortions would have been 60% higher, the research says.
And over the last few years, however, more and more family planning budgets have been slashed. Clinics and health centers have been closed. What do you think is going to happen to these numbers if we continue to strip Americans in need of vital medical care?
So again, what does it really mean to be “pro-life?”