by Kelsey Dayton, ’15
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
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.