Dismantling the Myths Behind Planned Parenthood

by Kelsey Dayton, ’15

On October 10th, the Stanford Democrats hosted a discussion with Lupe Rodriguez, Director of Public Affairs Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.

Planned Parenthood is a non-profit health services provider that should be an obvious beneficiary of public gratitude and federal funding. Instead, for the past three decades it has symbolized the partisan debate over abortion. As such, the very phrase “Planned Parenthood” has come to connote every possible stereotype, prejudice, and caricature that pro-choice advocates in the fierce abortion debate can think of. This treatment is unqualified and unjust for an organization that helps the young people that society neglects and never talks about. While the brand name gets assaulted in the political arena, those it seeks to help remain silent or, if they choose to speak out, unheeded.

Planned Parenthood addresses a critical problem in America, a problem inflated by a modern ideological culture war. Some people believe that by not addressing anything related to sex— protection options, possible diseases, pregnancy risk— all sex-related issues in the country will magically disappear. This is, not surprisingly, untrue. Unplanned pregnancy is a serious issue; according to the Guttmacher Institute, at least 38% of pregnancies are accidental. According to the Institute’s 2006 data, 64% of the births resulting from unintended pregnancies were paid for by public insurance programs. Not only is this a life-changing event for unprepared young parents, it is an expensive cumulative cost for taxpayers.

According to the 2010 Planned Parenthood Annual Report, affiliate medical services broke down as follows:
38.0% STI/STD Testing and Treatment
14.5 % Cancer Screening and Prevention
10.4% Other Women’s Health Services
33.5% Contraception
3% Abortion
0.6% Other Services

It is in everyone’s best interest that the federal government support Planned Parenthood. The cost of running these centers is significantly less than paying for unintended births. Additionally, according to the Guttmacher Institute, it is more likely that new parents of unintended pregnancies are poorer than the average American and would need government aid for a prolonged period of time. Planned Parenthood saves taxpayer dollars by reducing both of these expensive consequences, helping to inform and assist young women and men who are not ready to be parents. The option to utilize Planned Parenthood’s resources is also important for women from a civil rights standpoint. Women’s right to not have to choose exclusively between sex and being parents is an inherent one which should be recognized legally.

It seems that in recent years the country has moved backward on this front. Ironically, when Planned Parenthood first gained federal funding in 1970 under President Richard Nixon, it received bipartisan support. Conservatives saw it as a preventative measure that kept people off welfare while liberals saw it as increasing individual control over personal rights.

Both of these pro- Planned Parenthood arguments are relevant today, but the pro-life lobbyists have decided to make the organization the symbolic focal point of their rage. According to these lobbyists, there is a sizable population of horrible women who recreationally get abortions, just for fun. This is not the case. Any parent who has contemplated the option of abortion, as well as any level-headed person thinking about this issue, knows that this is a difficult, heart-wrenching decision that no one takes lightly. I personally doubt that I could do it, but that’s not the point. The point is the choice, and the government shouldn’t be allowed to make that choice for women. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood doesn’t use federal money to provide abortions, so this argument and this scapegoating of the organization is irrelevant.

The government could help everyone learn about the possibility of unplanned pregnancy and other risks, such as STDs, by supporting Planned Parenthood. By educating young people, we would reduce the rate of unplanned pregnancy that mandates such choices as abortion in the first place. The government should do this, because this is an issue that is gravely pressing and yet socially stigmatized. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann memorably demonized Planned Parenthood in 2011: “We are giving money to corrupt organizations like Planned Parenthood that are committing crimes and enabling young minor girls and covering up issues I don’t even want to talk about it because it is so disgusting.”

Bachmann’s rambling declaration embodies exactly what is wrong with America’s societal approach to sex education and why Planned Parenthood is necessary. These “issues I don’t even want to talk about because [they’re] so disgusting” are real issues that won’t just magically disappear. If we can’t address them in the public sphere for young women to see, Planned Parenthood is one of few, and maybe the only, outlet available to them.

In these final days before the election stand up for Women’s Rights and Planned Parenthood. Volunteer with the Students for Obama – email Nick Ahamed at NAhamed@stanford.edu or Like the Stanford Democrats on Facebook!


Kelsey Dayton is a Stanford sophomore who has been celebrating her first Presidential election since last year, getting involved in politics however she can. She is involved in the Stanford Democrats and Stanford in Government, and enjoys fanatically supporting Stanford Athletics in her free time.

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2 thoughts on “Dismantling the Myths Behind Planned Parenthood

  1. Anonymous says:

    This article is mostly garbage. I would support planned parenthood if it weren’t for the abortion issue. I support the aspect of planning parenthood, and being able to have sex without having to become a parent. My main problem is that abortion is seen as a contraceptive and the lack of having the choice when parenthood starts, limiting sexual fulfillment. As a society we have to start realizing that the woman at the point of pregnancy has already had and exercised her choice. There has to be some responsibility that plays into this at some point. The choice was made when the woman chose to engage in sex. We all know what can happen from sex, which is becoming pregnant. There are many good options for preventing that outcome, sometimes they fail, but this is very rare. At this point the woman chose to engage themself in the act that could result in pregnancy, making her choice to take the risk. If pregnancy happens then the consequences of that action must be faced, but not at the expense of life. Sure ther are people, rape victims, that did of even get to make the choice to engage in the act, but this is a very small percentage, and this population should have a separate set of rules governing this situation, not the same as those who simply chose for themselves.

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