Planned Parenthood Misunderstood by Republicans


The majority of Planned Parenthood’s services include STD treatment and contraception. (Graphic by Rory Masterson. Statistics from 2009.)


Susan G. Komen’s decision to discontinue its funding of Planned Parenthood on Jan. 31 resulted in a national uproar, leaving the breast cancer foundation struggling to tread water in a sea of negative publicity. After three days, over 600,000 signatures on various petitions denouncing Komen’s decision and more than $3 million in donations to Planned Parenthood from thousands of people across the country, Komen announced the reversal of its decision to discontinue funding to Planned Parenthood on Feb. 3. Only a few days later, on Feb. 7, Karen Handel, Komen’s vice president of public policy and former radical anti-choice candidate for Governor of Georgia, resigned.

The majority of Planned Parenthood’s services include STD treatment and contraception. (Graphic by Rory Masterson. Statistics from 2009.)
The majority of Planned Parenthood’s services include STD treatment and contraception. (Graphic by Rory Masterson. Statistics from 2009.)

While all of this is good news, Komen’s shocking announcement is not unprecedented, and certainly not the last attack on Planned Parenthood or on women’s health. Republican leaders put the government on the brink of a shutdown last year over government funding of Planned Parenthood, and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly introduced bills to defund the women’s health organization over the years. Republicans justify this egregious attack on women’s health by arguing that, as Republican Senator Jon Kyl (Arizona) put it, abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”

This argument would make at least some sense if it were actually true. In actuality, abortions account for less than three percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood. When this was pointed out to Senator Kyl, his office responded that, “[H]is remark was not intended to be a factual statement.” Unfortunately, Kyl’s statements illustrate the sheer irrationality and blatant lies of Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood.

While some Republicans fabricate statistics and spew heated rhetoric about Planned Parenthood being some sort of haven for abortion enthusiasts, the reality is that Planned Parenthood provides a vital service to women, especially poor women. The vast majority of services provided by Planned Parenthood are STD tests, cancer screenings, contraception provisions and other women’s health services, including pregnancy tests and prenatal care. The funding that Komen announced it would be rescinding goes entirely to cancer screening and treatment, and of the abortions the organization does provide, not a single one is paid for with federal funds or with Komen’s funding.

This is exemplified in Indiana Representative Mike Pence’s question, “What is more fiscally responsible than denying any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America?” Pence, the chief sponsor of a bill drafted last year to bar the government from directing any funds to organizations that provide abortion services, purposefully poses his misleading question simply to obscure the facts. Planned Parenthood does not use any government money to provide abortions. The slashes in funding that Pence and his Republican colleagues are pushing will in actuality detract from crucial, non-abortion services that Planned Parenthood provides for poor women.

Many women in America cannot afford to see a doctor when they are sick, or get preventative care such as mammograms. In many communities across the country, Planned Parenthood is the only source of health care for women, and the organization serves nearly 3 million women, men and youths every year. Fanatical Republican crusades against Planned Parenthood translate to attacks on poor women, not on abortion.

The objections of socially conservative, religious Republicans to abortion rights are somewhat understandable. However, their rational objections have spiraled into a fanatical and belligerent goal of dismantling all organizations with even loose affiliations with pro-choice groups or abortion coverage. Instead of thoughtlessly screeching rhetoric against vital organizations like Planned Parenthood, Republicans should take a more level-headed approach to tackling their moral reservations toward abortion. Religious right-wingers should not allow their opposition to abortion rights to blind them from the fact that their attacks on Planned Parenthood hurt poor women and families more than they work against the so-called “evils” of abortion.

Canton Winer, FCRH ‘15, is an undeclared major from West Palm Beach, Fla.