March 21, 2016
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By Sabrina Sun | Staff Writer
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a non-profit organization founded in 1916, dedicated to providing both men and women direct access to numerous sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion. Although Planned Parenthood states that abortion-related services only amount to 3 percent of the services they provide, the age-long controversy surrounding this practice has caused abortion to become Planned Parenthood’s trademark. The heated debate over abortion, driven by numerous moral, ethical, and human-rights related arguments, and Planned Parenthood’s association with the practice has prompted investigations of the organization and the of $500 million in federal funds it receives annually. However, many anti-Planned Parenthood movements use highly edited and biased material to spread misinformation and fuel misconceptions. Planned Parenthood is essential as it provides easily accessible sexual health services oriented towards men and women, particularly low-income citizens.
Contrary to what some may believe, Planned Parenthood’s funding system does not simply direct federal money towards abortion. In fact, Planned Parenthood is legally restricted by the Hyde Amendment, which states that federal money can only be used to fund abortion in the case of incest, rape, or if the mother’s life is at risk. The majority of its services are dedicated towards prevention and education of sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, and cancer screenings, services that are generally unattainable to low-income citizens. Planned Parenthood makes these necessary services accessible and affordable to the largely unmedicated lower-income class as shown through its “By the Numbers Report,” which states that 79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s 4.7 million patients live at or below the 150 percent federal poverty level. Interviewee Tiffany, reports in a Huffington Post’s article that, “When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was self-employed and I had no health benefits. Even the most routine doctor visits were outside my financial reach. The only reason I was able to have regular OB-GYN visits for years was because Planned Parenthood made it affordable. Without them, I would have risked my health.” Her experience is one of many that shows how a large number of low-income citizens have benefited from Planned Parenthood, which cannot be overlooked in favor of the controversy of abortion.
Planned Parenthood’s claim that only 3 percent of the services they provide are related to abortion has prompted pro-life activists to question the truth of this statement. Anna Paprocki, a representative from the anti-abortion organization Americans United for Life, said, “While Planned Parenthood continues to claim abortion as only 3 percent of its services, Planned Parenthood’s abortion business is demonstrably growing disproportionately to Planned Parenthood overall. ” Paprocki challenged how Planned Parenthood defines “services” and claims the organization deliberately downplays its involvement in abortion, stating how the proportion of abortion service rose to 12.1 percent if services were counted by patient instead of staff hours, which inaccurately equate an act of prescribing contraception pills to an abortion. Although the dubious phrasing of Planned Parenthood’s 3 percent statement leads to questions about the legitimacy of Planned Parenthood’s other reports, governmental investigations have cleared the organization of any major dishonesty. Even if the proportion of abortion-related services were to rise when defining services by patients instead of hours, 12.1 percent is still a far cry from some outrageous percentage claims made by anti-Planned Parenthood advocacies.
Most supporters of cutting Planned Parenthood’s funding are misinformed and come to incorrect conclusions based on biased and highly edited materials such as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP)’s, an anti-abortion organization, videos. In 2015 CMP released a series of illegally filmed videos that allegedly exposed Planned Parenthood’s officials profiting from the sale of aborted fetus tissue samples. Although CMP made many claims of corruption and illegal activity in Planned Parenthood, the full, unedited video contradicted many of those claims. One such claim is that Planned Parenthood officials profited off the reimbursement fee for the acquirement of fetal tissue samples. However, the released transcript recorded Planned Parenthood officials repeatedly insisting that tissue donation fees merely cover medical and shipping costs. In addition, CMP‘s officials were also charged with tampering governmental records, using false identification, and trespassing, in order to illegally record the videos. CMP’s videos falsely portrayed the organization as an illegal and unethical black market operation when in reality it is a licensed, federal program supported health provider. The influence of misinformation was shown again through Senator Jon Kyl. Senator Kyl spread false information in 2011 by saying, “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does,” spreading false information. If public and influential figures, such as Senator Kyl, are able to freely spread unsupported misinformation with unsatisfactory follow-up statements, then it is no wonder there is so much argument over the funding processes of an organization they have little to no real knowledge about.
While it is true that Planned Parenthood’s financial reports are self-audited and define services vaguely, the larger portion of Planned Parenthood’s resources are used to provide life-changing health services normally inaccessible to low income citizens, even in other clinics, fulfilling the requirement under which the funds were provided. Planned Parenthood is a valuable asset and cutting its funding would be disregarding all the organization’s achievements simply due to uninformed debate.