Defend – Don’t Defund – Planned Parenthood

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 3.00.30 PMFor some time now, Planned Parenthood has been the focus of right-wing attacks on a woman’s right to choose. But the firestorm sparked by the release of the videos produced by anti-choice activists posing as biomedical researchers have reached abysmal new lows.

The videos show heavily edited conversations with Planned Parenthood representatives about the process of donating fetal tissue for medical research. Republicans in Congress reflexively sprang into action announcing renewed efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and many vowed to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way.  

Independent analyses have thoroughly discredited the videos. And the tissue donation program has been explained as a legal and necessary method of advancing critical life-saving research. In fact, a recent article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine made the case that the medical establishment has a moral obligation to pursue such research because of the lives it will save and the suffering it will prevent.  

Still Republicans are going full speed ahead to take the nation to the brink of another shutdown. But it’s clear that the content of the videos is nothing but a smokescreen to justify what they have always wanted to do – destroy Planned Parenthood, constrain women’s right to choose, and reduce the availability of women’s reproductive health care for the economically disadvantaged.   

Committee hearings and investigations have jammed the schedule even as more pressing work – the budget, the highway bill – are ignored. But here’s what any honest and unbiased investigations would find: Planned Parenthood serves 2.7 million patients across America who would not otherwise have access to medical care. Every year Planned Parenthood provides 400,000 Pap smears to detect cervical cancer, 500,000 breast exams, other cancer screenings for 88,000 women who are given a better chance of survival the earlier the disease is detected. All of that saves women’s lives, and it accomplishes it in the face of relentless smear attacks.  

Planned Parenthood has long been a lifeline for patients from every demographic, region and socioeconomic background. The vast majority of its clients live on very low incomes and would find it impossible to find and afford healthcare services if Planned Parenthood clinics are shuttered. To paint Planned Parenthood as simply an abortion provider is grotesquely misleading. In fact, less than half of Planned Parenthood clinics perform abortions at all. According to the non-partisan fact checking organization Politifact.com – abortion procedures only account for 3 percent of all Planned Parenthood services provided 

In my district in New York City, I am privileged to represent two Planned Parenthood clinics, and I have seen firsthand the incredible demand for care at these locations. Endangering the lives and wellbeing of millions of women by defunding Planned Parenthood in pursuit of a radical political agenda is unconscionable and it is not remotely “pro-life.” That is why I am proud to stand with this outstanding organization. 

The mindless hatred against Planned Parenthood has become incredibly, irrationally toxic. Recently, I was shocked when a bill I introduced in this Congress to create a commemorative coin program that would raise private funds for breast cancer research was almost torpedoed because one of the beneficiary organizations that the bill would provide money was Planned Parenthood. The anti-choice crusade has become untethered from reality – and almost cost breast cancer patients millions of dollars. Money buys research. And research saves lives. 

The reckless efforts to defund and disable Planned Parenthood are also happening at the state level. Planned Parenthood has been forced to sue state governments that have acted to cut off its Medicaid funding. About 40% of Planned Parenthood’s budget is publically funded, largely from Medicaid reimbursements. Cutting off these funds leaves patients without a, viable alternative for preventive care. Other providers all across the country are already struggling with a patient overload. That is what should make anyone with a conscience outraged, not the silly doctored videos and false accusations. 

Abortion opponents know they can’t outlaw abortion, so they do the next best thing by going after abortion providers. Especially Planned Parenthood. Even though over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s services are preventive care. Even though there is no federal funding of abortion services. The so-called Hyde Amendment has been attached to every funding bill for almost 40 years and it prohibits federal funding for abortions – to Planned Parenthood or anyone else. And the Republicans have stretched that provision as far as they can, trying to apply it to authorization bills where it has no place.  

The major Republican candidates are, offering their support for this reckless effort to defund Planned Parenthood. The women of America should call them to account.  I, for one, will always vote to put women’s health first. And that means protecting Planned Parenthood. I ask you to join me in calling on Republican leadership to abandon this destructive and harmful tactic and focus its energy on making our nation stronger, not on shutting it down.

Photo courtesy of Joe Fenstermaker via Creative Commons 2.0.

About

Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s career has been a series of firsts. She is the first woman to represent New York’s 12th Congressional District; the first woman to represent New York City’s 7th Councilmanic district, where she was the first woman to give birth while in office; and was the first woman to Chair the Joint Economic Committee. Maloney is the author of Rumors of our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters, which has been used as a textbook in women’s studies courses. She is the former co-chair of the Women's Caucus and has authored and passed more than 70 measures, including legislation providing annual mammograms for women on Medicare, increasing funding for law enforcement to process rape kits and creating Women’s Health Offices in five Federal agencies.