Within the last year, Planned Parenthood has quietly backed away from its “Pro-Choice” label. Why might that be important? Perhaps it’s because for many men and women, the pro-life and pro-choice label is not all that black and white. There are shades of grey, such as for those who may feel abortion “depends on the situation”, such as in cases of rape or incest. Although some may argue that Planned Parenthood abandoning the pro-choice platform might harm the movement towards women taking ownership of their bodies without government interference, this opens up a new opportunity for the organization. The reality is that Planned Parenthood is so much more than an abortion provider, it is an organization that educates women and enhances women’s health. Forgoing the pro-choice stand enables Planned Parenthood to capitalize on a new reproductive health care platform, ensuring that all men and women have access to affordable reproductive health care services.
Abortion in the U.S.
For decades the right to an abortion has been a highly contested topic between state and federal lawmakers and women. Few have stopped to look at the strides that our country has made in preventing abortion. Between 2000-2008, abortion rates actually declined in the U.S. As of 2011, abortion rates were at their lowest level since 1973.
A study in 2012 actually cited that by offering free birth control, women were less likely to have an abortion. Women who have greater options are more likely to select birth control methods that are the most effective at preventing pregnancy, such as Intrauterine Devices (IUDs). For many women who attend Planned Parenthood clinics, free birth control is likely to be a reality for those who are uninsured.
Planned Parenthood and Title X Funding
Planned Parenthood receives Title X funds from the federal government. This allows for the organization to provide contraceptive services, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other reproductive health care services at a free or reduced rate. By allowing for women to receive the benefits of these services when they may have very little financial means to do so, women are able to access contraceptive services in order to prevent abortion. Unfortunately, few fail to acknowledge this and seem to only perceive Planned Parenthood as an abortion provider.
The Facts on Planned Parenthood
The harsh reality for those who choose not to stand with Planned Parenthood is that many Planned Parenthoods don’t even perform abortions. And for those ones that do, abortion services cover such a small percentage (only 3%) of all services offered Planned Parenthood is a champion at promoting health care for men and women in the U.S. In addition to the aforementioned services that are supplemented by Title X funds, Planned Parenthood offers a variety of other services to meet the needs of women and men of reproductive age (and beyond).
Some examples of additional services provided include:
- HIV/AIDS testing
- Treatment and testing for STIs
- Female sterilization and vasectomy procedures
- HPV vaccinations
- Patient education
- Urinary tract infection testing and treatment
These services and others make up 97% of all services provided at Planned Parenthood, showing that the organization extends beyond its reputation as an abortion provider. In fact, most all of Planned Parenthood’s clients access the centers in order to prevent unintended pregnancy. Further, over one million breast exams and pap smears are performed as potentially life-saving measures to screen for breast and cervical cancer. Additionally, nearly one million adults participate in Planned Parenthood’s educational programming.
At the core of Planned Parenthood’s mission is its aim to deliver reproductive and complementary health care services to diverse communities regardless of age, sex, and income. Eliminating the pro-choice label broadens the scope of Planned Parenthood, particularly for a public audience that fails to accept that the organization provides little more than abortions. Dispelling the Planned Parenthood abortion myth may not completely eradicate the controversy surrounding the organization, but it could help further Planned Parenthood’s mission and promote reproductive health and well-being for U.S. men, women, and adolescents.