By: Anthony Barrasso
Recently, the pro-life community has been up in arms over hidden camera footage published online by the Center for Medical Progress. The clearly edited videos feature two people from the anti-abortion activist group posing as representatives of a company interested in illegally purchasing fetal tissue for non-research use from Planned Parenthood. The controversy has caused an uprising of critics, including Republican presidential candidates, calling for the federal government to end funding of the organization. Three states have already ceased funding of the organization. If any wrong-doing can be proved, then executives at Planned Parenthood should face consequences, but banning or limiting funding for the organization would be short-sighted and irresponsible.
Importantly, this blog has nothing to do with abortion. This may be confusing because Planned Parenthood is often referred to by pro-lifers as simply an abortion clinic. However, multiple sources have shown that abortion services only account for 3% of the organization’s annual budget. The vast majority of funding for Planned Parenthood is used for the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and providing contraception. Defunding Planned Parenthood would severely limit American’s, especially those with low income and those who do not qualify for comprehensive healthcare benefits, access to both of these services, and have a significant, negative impact on human health.
STIs are infections commonly spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. These infections are irritating, painful, and sometimes lethal. Although most are treatable, they remain highly prevalent in the population. In 2013, there were nearly 1.8 million reported cases of syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea combined in the U.S. The reason these infections continue to spread is due to their ability to lay dormant in the body for months, even years, before causing symptoms. Thus, affordable testing and education about safe sex, like that performed at Planned Parenthood clinics, is critical to prevent the spread of these harmful infections.
Access to contraception is another vital health service that Planned Parenthood provides the public. Firstly, the attempt of reducing teen pregnancy and abortions by providing free or reduced cost contraception has been an overwhelming success in research studies and in practice in Colorado. Beyond preventing unwanted pregnancy, oral contraception (the pill) regulates hormone levels and treats irregular periods. Secondly, the pill can prevent endometrial cancers (cancers of the womb), including ovarian, cervical, and uterine. A recent study estimated that the pill has prevented 400,000 cases of endometrial cancers in the last 50 years; half of which have been prevented in the last decade. Planned Parenthood also allocates 9% of their budget specifically for cancer screening and prevention, which is three times as much money allocated for abortion services.
The leaked videos of Planned Parenthood personnel are worrisome and warrant investigation, but prove nothing. Even if there are personnel at Planned Parenthood negotiating for-profit deals on fetal tissue, it is clearly not representative of the organization as a whole. Overall, federal funding for Planned Parenthood is important for public health, especially in preventing the spread of STIs, unwanted pregnancy, and cancer. Regardless of personal opinions on abortion, it is imperative that Planned Parenthood, and organizations like it, continue to receive adequate funding.
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