Planned Parenthood bill denies women basic healthcare

By Editorial Board

In a 241-187 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Sept. 18 to temporarily suspend all funding to Planned Parenthood. The Senate rejected the bill, titled “Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015,” in a 52-47 vote on Sept. 24. The bill was intended to block federal funding to the family-planning organization and its clinics for one year unless the clinics discontinued their abortion services. 

According to the House, withholding Planned Parenthood’s funding would allow the government more time to investigate the secretly recorded videos that surfaced earlier this year accusing Planned Parenthood of selling aborted fetuses and body parts for medical research. The authenticity of those videos has been questioned by the White House. Arguments from House members favoring the bill stem from beliefs that all life is sacred, so the government should not pay for Planned Parenthood’s abortion services. 

“No matter what party you belong to, we should all agree that taxpayer dollars should not be used for harvesting baby parts for profit,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) said in a Sept. 18 floor speech. 

Walberg’s statement is factually incorrect, considering that zero taxpayer dollars are allocated for abortion services. Supporters of the Planned Parenthood bill are counting on Americans to assume that the bulk of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion-related and their tax dollars are financing controversial practices. The rhetoric used by Republicans in these instances is both dangerous and fabricated. The 1976 Hyde Amendment prohibits government money—including tax dollars—from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and when pregnancy could threaten the mother’s life. 

From June 2013 to 2014, Planned Parenthood  received $528.4 million in local, state and federal funding, according to the organization’s 2014 annual report. Of that money, 41 percent came from government health service grants and Medicaid reimbursements. If Planned Parenthood was federally defunded, an estimated 650,000 women would lose access to basic healthcare services like sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, contraception education and cancer screenings. The women who benefit from Planned Parenthood services are typically members of low-income communities who may not have access to other alternatives. By stripping those women of their access to birth control and accurate sex education, more unwanted pregnancies are bound to occur, which could easily lead to more abortions. 

Women from lower-income communities who benefit from Planned Parenthood’s subsidized family planning would, if denied these services, likely depend on tax-funded government initiatives such as Medicaid to pay for the inevitable unexpected pregnancies and subsequent childcare costs. Planned Parenthood services help prevent approximately 516,000 unintended pregnancies each year, according to the organization’s website. Considering that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions, which are not even funded by taxpayers, Republicans would be far from achieving their goal by defunding the organization. 

As decided in the 1972 Roe v. Wade case, abortions are legal in the United States, though there are restrictions depending on the gestational age of the fetus. House Republicans are advancing an anti-abortion agenda while sacrificing access to key healthcare services for hundreds of thousands of women, which is irresponsible and misguided. Planned Parenthood should not be denounced and punished for performing services that are legal and affect as many as 2.7 million people who visit Planned Parenthood annually.