Jeb Bush made a major political gaffe on August 4 by telling 13,000 people at the Southern Baptist Convention, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Hours later, he sent out a statement: “I was referring to the hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood.” Without realizing, Bush made an ironic connection, considering his political stance on the issue: Planned Parenthood is about women’s health, not just abortions.
Since a video surfaced in July depicting Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal tissues, Republicans in Congress have led an effort to stem federal money to the organization. Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of abortions. However, what has become clear is that the conservative “crusade” against Planned Parenthood’s malpractices is less an attack on the sale of tissues than on Planned Parenthood itself and what it supports: abortion.
Politics and social issues rarely mix well together, particularly in personal cases such as abortion. Since the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973, it has been every woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. Without Planned Parenthood in place, many women will be deprived of the opportunity to have one. As such, the federal government must continue to fund Planned Parenthood in order to safeguard the well-being of hundreds of thousands of low-income American women who depend on its services.
In the past few weeks, no blunder on Capitol Hill has been more blatant than the Republican-led farce against Planned Parenthood. Starting with clearly flawed testimonies from abortion survivors and ending with a five-hour-long hearing between Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and Republican members of Congress, the investigative panel discussed the issue of Richard’s salary, Planned Parenthood’s finances, the ethical nature of abortions and most surprisingly, President Obama’s handling of the 2012 Benghazi Attacks. Besides having little connection to the purpose of the investigation, these issues represent the true intentions of Republicans: attacking abortion and Democrats.
Statistics show that 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s work does not even involve abortions. This narrow-minded logic that Planned Parenthood and its hundreds of services must be crippled just to stop abortions, does more harm than good.
In 2013-2014, Planned Parenthood relied on the 40 percent of its annual funding from the government. If that money is taken away, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that up to 650,000 clients would have reduced access to facilities. This would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of STI tests, HIV tests, Pap smear tests, breast exams and pregnancy tests ― all of which are put at stake simply because Republicans detest abortion.
Halting the flow of federal money does not stop Planned Parenthood from supporting abortions. Thanks to the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds for most abortions, Planned Parenthood has been forced to use non-government funds for the service since 1976 and will continue to do so even after government funds dry up. In the end, cutting Planned Parenthood funds will have done nothing other than force underprivileged women to search elsewhere for help that should have been there in the first place.
Although abortion services are a notable part of Planned Parenthood’s work, pro-life supporters fail to grasp that Planned Parenthood’s broad focus is about all aspects of women’s health in general. In fact, Planned Parenthood is also the largest provider of services to women in regard to contraception and family planning, which in turn prevent the need for abortions. Consequently, the funding for Planned Parenthood must continue. Rather than allowing pro-life supporters to politicize the issue, congress must consider the larger picture — that women’s health is a serious national priority, and not just an object for political volleyball.