Planned Parenthood: The Stuff You Need To Know

Since you’re reading this post, I bet you’re familiar with the Planned Parenthood controversy that’s captured the press (and your Facebook wall) the past several months. But just in case you’re not, here’s a quick rundown:

During the summer, undercover videos taken of Planned Parenthood abortion officials were released. The videos show PP officials discussing the procurement of fetal tissue with actors posing as representatives of a fake bio-tech company, and is framed in a way that suggests the organization profits from fetal tissue use for research. It was created by anti-abortion organization The Center for Medical Progress and it’s currently unclear whether or not anything portrayed in the viral videos is factual or not. As a result, the House of Representatives voted on September 18th to completely defund Planned Parenthood for a year, stripping it of hundreds of millions of dollars that go towards healthcare for both men and women. So far, 12 states have decided to investigate the claims, in addition to an ongoing federal investigation. The whole debacle has been hijacked as a way to pursue an anti-abortion political agenda, despite this being a very small portion of what Planned Parenthood offers its patients—most of which are middle to low-income women seeking preventative and contraceptive care.

While I haven’t been particularly vocal about these issues up until now, I’ve decided to share my own perspective on Planned Parenthood partly because I feel it’s my duty as a woman to do so. That probably sounds lofty and redundant, but it’s true. This is the moment to have a voice, no matter how small, on women’s rights. Because we’re losing them.

The most important points:

Abortions suck for everyone. 

FYI, women don’t want to get abortions. I’ve never been pregnant, so I’m can’t speak from personal experience, but I’m pretty f*ing sure this is true. I imagine that my life reflects that of many women my age. I’ve just moved out into a one-bedroom apartment, started a good job that requires long hours and a constant influx of coffee, and I have begrudgingly begun to pay bills. While I won’t disclose what my own decision would be if I did get pregnant (the thought terrifies me to the core), I recognize that caring for a child is utterly out of the question given my current circumstances. Let’s face it, I can barely care for myself on a regular basis.

No one who is wholly unprepared for pregnancy and/or parenthood peers down at that ominous white stick with a fateful plus sign and exclaims “HOORAY! I wanted to wait ten years, but this will do. I can’t wait to tell my boyfriend of two months!” My point is, if a woman finds herself pregnant and decides to have an abortion, she’s certainly not going  to feel super excited about this prospect.

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

For most women, the decision to have an abortion is the hardest decision they’ll ever face, and one that resonates throughout their lives forever. FOREVER. This shit sucks no matter what, but guess what? It’s not your body and it’s not your decision. A woman has the right to choose whatever path she finds most suitable. Women are unique and their decisions reflect that uniqueness. What’s right for you may not be right for another woman.

My moral here is to refrain from judgement when a woman does decide to have an abortion. You may not understand her choice, but the good news is that it doesn’t affect you whatsoever. When it comes down to it, having a child is a tremendous decision and no one should be forced into it because they don’t have sufficient options.

Federal money does not pay for abortions through Planned Parenthood. 

I repeat: No federal money goes towards PP abortions. (Except in extremely rare cases with federal Medicaid* funds, such as rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother as dictated by the 1977 Hyde Amendment.) Nevertheless, congress has completely defunded Planned Parenthood, shutting off many women’s access to essential aspects of healthcare, such as contraception, STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings, breast exams, and more. How many of us have frequented Planned Parenthood? Sure, the waiting rooms are kind of depressing and they only have really old greasy magazines to read, but the benefits they offer are clear. Healthcare!

Source: Planned Parenthood
Only 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provided last year were abortion-related.

While Planned Parenthood receives about half a billion dollars a year from the government, these funds aren’t legally allowed to by spent on abortions. Nonetheless, the House voted in September to strip PP of all federal funding for at least a year. (It passed 241-187.) This decision will disproportionately affect those who rely on Medicaid, have no health insurance, or live in areas with few medical options.

*Medicaid is the healthcare program targeted at lower-income Americans, which is one of two programs that fund Planned Parenthood. Title X is the other.

Now for some facts:

  • Republicans in Congress have cut off more than $500 million in federal money for Planned Parenthood.
  • Everyone hates the words “fetal tissue,” but in reality the donation of it is legal. 
  • Fetal tissue has been used for research since the 1930s, and was even instrumental in developing the polio vaccine.
    • Currently, fetal tissue is playing a role in research for AIDS, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease.
  • While it’s illegal to sell fetal tissue for profit, the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 (that legalized its use for research) also allows for “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”
    • So, it’s possible (even likely) that the fees being discussed in the video fall under this definition .
    • And, what counts as “reasonable payment” isn’t clarified by the law.
  • Abortions do not make up the majority of Planned Parenthood’s services.
    • Preventive care comprises about 85 to 90 percent of all their services.
    • That includes: contraception, STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings, breast exams, etc.
  • UPDATE: Two hours after writing this post, PP released a statement saying that they will no longer accept reimbursement for fetal tissue.

And lastly, a few quotes:

“One in every 5 women in America, sometime in her life, will get her healthcare from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood, what does it mostly do? 97% of what Planned Parenthood does is about cancer screenings, screenings for STDs, about birth control. Planned Parenthood is in – more than half of all the Planned Parenthood clinics are in places where there is limited access to healthcare. So for many people, for many women, is there only healthcare provider, sometimes their principle healthcare provider—And the Republicans say the first issue that we’ve got to discuss, the number one thing, everything else can go forward on the budget or we can cut, everything else, the first thing we’ve to do is defund Planned Parenthood. That means defunding healthcare for women.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren

“I’m not sure we need half-a-billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

Governor Jeb Bush

“This bill is dumb, it’s foolish, and it’s mean-spirited…The bill is based upon lies and exaggerations. If you want to have a truthful debate, then let’s talk about the 400,000 Pap smears, the 500,000 breast exams, the 4.5 million STD and HIV tests that Planned Parenthood does each year.”

Rep. Lois Frankel

Further Reading


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