By Maya Homan
It’s a new year, and along with a new calendar, new classes and a new president comes a very old argument: the debate about Planned Parenthood’s funding.
Pro-life supporters have been adamant about eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood since the 1980s due to their abortion services. Although a bill to defund the organization was vetoed by President Obama in January of 2016, President Trump is expected to sign it.
However, it should be noted that there are some reasons reasons all Americans should want to keep Planned Parenthood funded:
1) Abortions only account for three percent of all the services Planned Parenthood provides. Though its abortion services are generally blown out of proportion by the media, politicians and anti-abortion activists, Planned Parenthood actually spends much more time and resources trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they happen. They are estimated to have prevented over 500,000 unwanted pregnancies (not births, pregnancies) annually through education and affordable contraception.
2) Planned Parenthood teaches medically accurate sex education. Surprisingly, there are no national guidelines for sex ed in public schools in the United States. Twenty-eight states don’t require sex ed to be taught at all, and of the 22 states that do mandate it, only 13 require the information taught to be medically accurate. In addition, eight states restrict what teachers are allowed to tell their students about topics like homosexuality, and many limit lessons to abstinence-only education. This is particularly problematic because research has proven that abstinence-only education does not prevent teenagers from having sex and actually places them at an increased risk for STDs and pregnancies. Abstinence-only education also omits topics like consent, which may contribute to the epidemic of campus sexual assault across the U.S. Teaching people about safe sex inevitably leads to fewer people with STDs and fewer unwanted pregnancies, resulting in fewer abortions.
3) Planned Parenthood isn’t just for women. They also have services for men and teens, offering male forms of birth control, infertility screenings, cancer screenings and more. Providing contraception at affordable rates also makes it easier for teens to practice safe sex, especially as many parents are unwilling to provide teens with methods of birth control and teens are uncomfortable asking their parents for contraception. And although many parents may feel that giving their teens access to birth control sends the wrong message, it is actually a much more effective way to prevent diseases and pregnancies than forbidding their teen from becoming sexually active. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that sexually active teens with access to birth control were 79% less likely to become pregnant.
Abstinence-only education omits topics like consent, which may contribute to the epidemic of campus sexual assault across the U.S.
4) Planned Parenthood offers affordable healthcare and same-day appointments. Although the organization mainly focuses on reproductive health, they also offer general health services including cancer screenings, hormone therapy for transgender patients, flu vaccines, diabetes screenings and aid for cigarette addiction.
Offering same-day appointments makes it easier for people to get the care they need as quickly as possible, and Planned Parenthood also charges for their services based on income. In addition, patients without insurance may qualify for free family-planning care. Planned Parenthood’s affordability is a crucial part of their services, as around 75% of their clients are at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. And with the incoming administration’s promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a measure that would leave almost 13 million Americans without coverage, Planned Parenthood is needed more than ever before.
5) Planned Parenthood offers more than just healthcare. They also provide valuable information on topics like body image, healthy and abusive relationships, sexual orientations and gender identity. Although this information may not be useful to every patient, it can be vital in the lives of people living with abusive partners or eating disorders, as well as non-cisgender patients.
6) Defunding Planned Parenthood could potentially increase government spending. Planned Parenthood currently receives $500 million from the government each year, but the Congressional Budget Office has revealed that eliminating federal funding for the organization would actually increase government spending by $130 million over the next decade alone. Decreased access to contraception, limiting access to cancer screenings and an increase in birth rates would all lead to an increase in Medicaid spending. Medicaid, a social welfare program that provides healthcare for low-income Americans, serves 40 million people and covers the costs of about 45% of all births in the United States. An increase in births due to abortion restrictions would also increase the amount of people who grow up living below the poverty line and would therefore rely on Medicaid to cover their healthcare expenses. All of this would increase taxpayer spending.
7) Without Planned Parenthood, some people would lose access to health care altogether. Although the Affordable Care Act was theoretically supposed to solve the issue of unaffordable health care, 20 states refused to expand their Medicaid requirements to include people who make under 138% of the poverty line. This decision left 3.1 million Americans in what’s known as the Medicaid gap, where they don’t make enough money to be able to afford health insurance, but make too much money to qualify for government assistance. Cutting funding for Planned Parenthood would mean that those 3.1 million Americans may not have access to health care at all, a number which could increase if Congress decides to repeal Obamacare.
Regardless of your stance on abortion, it is hard to deny the fact that Planned Parenthood plays a vital role in providing Americans of all gender identities, economic statuses and sexual orientations with access to quality healthcare. This nation relies on Planned Parenthood for basic preventative care, so for the good of Americans everywhere, it’s time to stand with Planned Parenthood.