BY SAMAN SALAHUDDIN
House Speaker Paul Ryan has announced that by the end of this year, Republicans in congress will defund Planned Parenthood. This is by no means the Republican Party’s first attempt to do so; in fact, its battle against Planned Parenthood has existed since the organization began. However, this time, it might just happen.
The incoming Trump administration has provided Republicans with the power needed to defund Planned Parenthood. With the right type of legislative tool, Democrats in Congress may be powerless against their opponents. Paul Ryan proposed that Republicans use a budget reconciliation bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Since budget reconciliation bills only require a simple majority to pass, opposing senators cannot even filibuster in order to delay the bill. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood supporters will be unable to give thousands of low income men and women crucial access to a number of healthcare services.
You may be wondering why we should be so afraid that Republicans are adamant about defunding Planned Parenthood. To start, the media has overly simplified the fight against Planned Parenthood as one against abortions, ignoring the myriad of other services that the non-profit provides millions of men, women and adolescents. According to their website, Planned Parenthood provides 270,000 Pap tests and more than 360,000 breast exams in a single year. Both are critical services in detecting cancer. They also provide over 4.2 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including more than 650,000 HIV tests. According to Slate, only about three percent of Planned Parenthood’s work accounts for abortions. Most of their services are used by low income citizens who never would have access to these services otherwise. There is a law stating that spending federal money to fund abortion services is illegal. If that were the only service that Planned Parenthood provides, Republicans would be justified in their attempts to defund the organization. However, since all federal funding to the organization funds critical services besides abortion, Republicans have no legal grounds to defund Planned Parenthood. In fact, the federal government does not even pay Planned Parenthood up front; according to a recent article on Slate, “It’s [federal funding] paid as compensation to clinics for services they’ve [Planned Parenthood] delivered to people covered by Medicaid. If those people choose other doctors or clinics, Planned Parenthood doesn’t get paid.”
If you take a moment to listen to the argument of Republican congressmen and women, it becomes glaringly obvious that the crux of their concern is the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortions, a medical service that is not only legal but has been protected in multiple Supreme Court decisions. In fact, during a congressional committee hearing in September 2015, Rep. Cynthia Lummis told the head of Planned Parenthood that “taxpayer dollars are being used to free up services that you provide that are abhorrent.” In the same hearing Rep. Blake Farenthold said that “even though not directly spent, they [federal funds] help facilitate [abortion], and that’s one of the reasons I support defunding.” So in the end, the GOP argument boils down to a moral issue. I’d like to make it clear: people have every right to believe that abortions are immoral and “abhorrent”. However, they do not have any justifiable right to strip away someone else’s right to have an abortion, which is legal in this country. Congressmen and women are public servants, there to serve the people; they must act in the best interest of the people.
Defunding Planned Parenthood would be disastrous in many other arenas as well. According to the Congressional Budget Office, an estimated 390,000 people served by Planned Parenthood would lose access to care in the first year after defunding. The GOP has said that after defunding Planned Parenthood, they will support federally qualified community health care centers, which will provide the services that Planned Parenthood does as of now. Unfortunately, according to the Los Angeles Times, these health care centers are already overburdened with patients and cannot suddenly expand to help hundreds of thousands of people. There is no denying that defunding Planned Parenthood will hurt thousands of Americans. There is no reason why the GOP, a party that claims to understand the American people better than Democrats, condones defunding Planned Parenthood knowing that it will immensely burden our people.
It is incredibly unfortunate that we are still fighting this war on abortion. Abortion is a nuanced, highly personal and painful decision that a woman has to make. That decision is never black and white the way Republicans have been attempting for years to make us believe. We must fight to protect every woman’s right to have control over her body and her life. Also, regardless of whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, we all must fight to protect low income families from losing access to necessary reproductive health care services.