Planned Parenthood: More than just an abortion clinic


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Demonstrators hold placards during a Planned Parenthood rally outside the state capitol in Austin, Texas in 2017.

By Jazmin Chavira, Middle College High School

“Defunding” means blocking patients who use public health care programs from accessing preventive care at Planned Parenthood. “Defund” attacks take direct aim at preventive care, not abortion, and the effects go far beyond.

Planned Parenthood is a healthcare organization that has been in operation for over a century that specializes in reproductive and sexual health. For years, the nonprofit organization has been at the forefront of political upheaval since abortion is one of the hundreds of sexual health services it provides. Anti-abortion activists have long advocated for the abolition of the non-profit agency.

When anti-abortion representatives speak about “defunding” Planned Parenthood, what they actually mean is prohibiting people who use public health services like Medicaid and Title X from accessing preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

Make no mistake about it. An assault on Planned Parenthood will not only make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions; it will also jeopardize many women’s access to a variety of essential health care services.

“A lot of people have this misconception that Planned Parenthood is just for abortions. Planned Parenthood provides a variety of reproductive health services to millions of patients. To name just a few, they provide family planning and contraception counseling, Pap tests, pregnancy tests, breast cancer screenings, treatment for STIs, etc.” said senior Alexandra Quiñones.

Alejandra Marin, MCHS alumnus and Administrative Medical Assistant at Planned Parenthood said, “Although Planned Parenthood is known for its abortion services, surgical and medication abortions account for under 10% of its services. People are always surprised that Planned Parenthood also offers primary care. Those with eligible insurance go to Planned Parenthood the way they would to a ‘regular’ doctor’s office.”

Planned Parenthood meets women’s basic health care needs in mostly rural or medically underserved areas. Planned Parenthood provides birth control to millions of women. In 2014, 360,000 women had breast exams and 270,000 had Pap tests. These preventative services enable doctors to detect cancer at an earlier stage, increasing a patient’s chances of survival.

“Having a sexual health clinic is important because a lot of the time, it is the first step in someone seeking medical help,” said Marin.

Political attacks on Planned Parenthood are not new. In 1916, nine days after founder Margaret Sanger opened the country’s first birth control clinic, police raided and closed it down. Sanger was imprisoned for 30 days and spent the time educating other prisoners about birth control.

Now fast forward to the twenty-first century. Politicians and extremists bent on outlawing abortion and denying women the freedom to make their own healthcare choices threaten a one-two punch against Planned Parenthood’s health centers. Next, fringe organizations (often with misleading names like “Live Action” and the “Center for Medical Progress”) create and circulate doctored videos that are heavily edited, deliberately deceptive, and misleading, and that is inevitably debunked but make it appear as if Planned Parenthood officials or workers did something wrong. Then, lawmakers use these videos to attempt to “defund” Planned Parenthood.

“Conservatives do explicitly state they want to defund Planned Parenthood to prevent abortion yet don’t support birth control visits or sex education in schools. Defunding Planned Parenthood has always been more about taking away people’s choices regarding their bodies and how to control their future,” said Marin.

Abortions accounted for just 3% of Planned Parenthood’s overall annual programs. With these figures, it is difficult to claim that Planned Parenthood only offers abortions, because 97 percent of its programs have nothing to do with abortion and more to do with men’s and women’s wellbeing.

Even the 3% of women who seek abortions at Planned Parenthood deserve to have the choice. It is dehumanizing to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body. People lose power when they make a decision that prevents a woman from receiving the full health care she deserves, regardless of the circumstances. It is wrong to take away this power. The multiple reasons behind someone getting an abortion stem far past simply not wanting a baby at that point and time.

Approximately 60% of the 2.4 million patients that attend Planned Parenthood per year depend on public health services to receive treatment, with Medicaid accounting for the overwhelming majority of those patients. These attacks disproportionately affect people who already face obstacles to health-care coverage, such as those with low incomes, racial minorities, and those living in rural areas.

“It is a big benefit for communities, such as ours which is underprivileged, to have affordable sexual health clinics. These provide safe spaces for people to learn about sex and be healthy. It also releases some of the taboo about sex and other topics pertaining to our bodies. Once this line of communication and openness is established people can be more educated and respectful,” said Quiñones.

Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, the health care services provided by Planned Parenthood are undeniably important. Defunding this organization would deprive countless Americans of care and basic health services to which they are entitled.

This story was originally published on The Spellbinder on April 21, 2021.