As I’m sure everyone has heard by now, incredibly restrictive abortion bans are spreading across the southern United States. I’ve addressed these bans in my previous column and discussed the deadly implications of this legislature. If you’d like to learn more about these abortion restrictions please refer to my previous column, as this column is not directly about these bills.
While I firmly believe that abortion is healthcare and healthcare is a universal human right, and that everyone who can get pregnant deserves the ability to freely and safely choose abortion, not everyone shares these views. As a part of attempting to eliminate and criminalize abortion in the United States, major voices such as Vice President Mike Pence within the anti-abortion movement have pushed to defund Planned Parenthood.
The rationale in defunding Planned Parenthood is that the government should not aid in funding an organization that provides abortions. Many individuals pushing to defund Planned Parenthood seem to be under the impression that the government directly subsidizes Planned Parenthood services, as if there’s a specific area of federal funding devoted to keeping these clinics open.
The reality is that there is no such federal funding devoted to Planned Parenthood. A vast majority of Planned Parenthood federal funding comes through Medicaid reimbursements for reproductive care services. Because approximately 60% of Planned Parenthood patients rely on public health programs such as Medicaid, this funding is essential to ensuring those using the programs can access reproductive care.
Planned Parenthood has also expanded their presence in university environments nationwide through partnering with campus clubs and organizations to spread information about birth control, healthy relationships, STIs and more.
NC State’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action group holds various events throughout the year, such as the Let’s Talk About Sex series, which includes seminars concerning consent, LGBTQ+ sex and reproductive rights. The PPGA at NC State provides a safe space to ask questions and learn about these topics and more, and provides its student body with inclusive and positive information.
Because approximately 4.7 million individuals receive Planned Parenthood reproductive care yearly, removing Medicaid coverage would leave 2.8 million individuals with no coverage without funding. It is possible to find other practitioners who may accept Medicaid for reproductive services; however, eliminating access to Planned Parenthood would be a major blow for this demographic, as other clinics may not be easily accessible.
What the anti-abortion movement doesn’t seem to realize is that abortions only comprise approximately 3.4% of Planned Parenthood’s services, as of 2017. Of the patients who do not seek abortion care, 48.7% seek STI diagnosis and treatment, and 27.1% seek contraception. By providing affordable contraception to these individuals, Planned Parenthood effectively prevents approximately 500,000 unintentional pregnancies yearly.
For individuals who rely on Medicaid for coverage, Planned Parenthood offers either free or extremely low-cost contraceptive options. Through working to dismantle the financial barriers within healthcare services, Planned Parenthood works to empower individuals in determining their own reproductive future.
You cannot be anti-abortion and simultaneously work to defund Planned Parenthood, as access to affordable, effective birth control is the only surefire way to decrease abortion rates. The data provided on abortion in the United States demonstrates that abortion rates are decreasing, with approximately 14.6 abortions per 1,000 individuals of childbearing age in 2014. Availability of birth control has improved in part thanks to the 2012 Affordable Care Act, an act that mandates that private health plans provide 18 different methods of contraception at no out-of-pocket costs.
However, in recent years, the openly anti-abortion Trump Administration has weakened these protections. Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruled that companies can refuse contraceptive coverage on the basis of religious beliefs. This is a very serious step in further limiting access to birth control for American individuals. Combined with the recent abortion restrictions, it’s clear that the true goal of the anti-abortion movement is simply to control reproductive rights.
As a final note, the need for an abortion is always going to exist. No contraception is 100% effective, and even the most long-term methods such as tubal ligation have failure rates of approximately 0.005%. The only truly “foolproof” method is simply not having sex, as various anti-abortion advocates state; however, this abstinence-only approach has shown to be ineffective and does not account for non-consensual encounters. There will always be need for abortion, but Planned Parenthood helps dramatically reduce that need.
So, to all anti-abortion advocates: Stop trying to defund Planned Parenthood. You can’t oppose both birth control and abortion. Support Planned Parenthood and help us provide knowledge, contraception and empowerment to everyone.