Column: Stop trying to demonize, defund Planned Parenthood

In this July 24, 2015, file photo, a sign at a Planned Parenthood Clinic is pictured in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is urging the state’s Medicaid provider to cancel its contracts with two Planned Parenthood affiliates, citing what she called a “high rate of billing errors.” (Sue Ogrocki, File/AP)

Planned Parenthood has been the subject of multiple tragedies over the past couple of weeks. First, there was the mass shooting at a clinic in Colorado Springs on Nov. 27, an act of domestic terrorism by a man who used the phrase “no more baby parts” to explain his actions to law enforcement officials. Then, a few days ago, the Republican-controlled Senate approved a bill defunding the organization.

Despite the fact that many feel the hateful rhetoric on the far-right, the misrepresentation of Planned Parenthood is at least partially to blame for the shooting and other countless acts of violence against the organization.

Planned Parenthood is not an evil organization. It’s not even close. The GOP’s main problem with it is that it provides abortions, which are legal. Besides, abortions take up about 3 percent of their total resources and are not paid for with federal funds.

By defunding Planned Parenthood the Republicans are defunding one of the nation's leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men and young people. They are defunding an organization that provides critical cancer screening and prevention (nearly 400,000 Pap tests and nearly 500,000 breast exams each year). Planned Parenthood provides nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections every year. They are especially critical to people with low income who cannot afford other health care providers.

Frankly, it’s a bit rich that the political party criticizing Planned Parenthood for “killing babies and selling their parts,” not actually what they do, is heavily financed and favored by groups such as the NRA. If they were really pro-life, you’d think that they’d be in favor of background checks and other restrictions on items whose sole purpose is to kill people, especially seeing as we have had more mass shootings this year than calendar days.

But sure, the group that primarily works to prevent unintended pregnancy and cancer is evil while the one that wants to give guns to everyone is our best friend. Makes perfect sense.  

If Republicans don’t want abortions to occur then they should really increase funding to Planned Parenthood. Here’s why. About 35 percent of their services go towards contraceptives. Contraceptives such as birth control help prevent unplanned pregnancies, 40 percent of which end in abortions. One Guttmacher Institute study found that federal funding for family planning and other critical health care services for low-income and uninsured people prevented 345,000 abortions in 2013.

Even though Planned Parenthood provides abortions their primary goal is to ensure that people are never faced with the choice. Its name is Planned Parenthood for a reason.

The entire Republican smear campaign has been based on lies, such as the heavily edited videos released by the poorly named Center for Medical Process. These videos showed Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the offering of fetal body parts of aborted babies to harvesters for compensation. Accepting compensation for this is the “illegal activity” Republicans have investigated the group for, but Planned Parenthood does not accept compensation outside of operational expenses and announced recently they would no longer accept any compensation to try and satisfy the Republicans.

The fetal tissue donated provides stem cells and helps researchers study and find new ways to fight degenerative diseases such as AIDS, spinal cord injuries and cancer.

Despite all the benefits that Planned Parenthood provides, the right wing has managed to create a very hostile environment for the organization with rhetoric that has helped lead to numerous attacks, including the recent shooting. For example, between 1996 and 2000 there were about 300 acts of vandalism and over 40,000 acts of disruption, such as harassing phone calls and bomb threats, nationally.

One former employee recounted incidents where gasoline was poured under their back door and ignited, cherry bombs were left on their doorstep and the clinic received numerous threatening phone calls. Laura McQuade, the president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, noted that violence against clinics has risen since the release of the edited videos. 

This needs to stop. Planned Parenthood is, above all, a crucial health care provider for low income women and men. Defunding Planned Parenthood would, in many cases, provide these people with no credible alternative, as many that use their services come from rural areas. A majority of Americans, 58 percent, want to keep the group funded. They are an incredibly important organization to our country and they do so much good for so many people with the resources at their disposal. We must not let lies and misinformation cloud our judgment.


Jacob Kowalski is a staff columnist to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.