In recent years, Planned Parenthood has come under attack by extremist politicians in government at both the federal and state levels. These politicians wish to eliminate funding for family planning and block Planned Parenthood’s participation in public health programs. Among their ranks are our very own Representative Luke Messer and Senator Todd Young.
As evidenced by the most recent versions of the Affordable Care Act repeal bills, pro-life/anti-choice legislation more often than not guts protections for the elderly, the sick, and the lowest-income Americans who most desperately need access to quality, affordable healthcare. Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, attempts to close the ever-widening gap between affordable healthcare and quality healthcare for Americans who need it.
The real problem is not Planned Parenthood; it is that the efforts of legislators like Messer and Young would restrict, and, in some cases, eliminate women’s access to affordable, high-quality reproductive healthcare, including cancer screenings, birth control, wellness exams and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing.
As a young woman who grew up in Indiana, I have witnessed friends and family members seek out Planned Parenthood for a variety of preventive services, who otherwise would not have been able to access or afford them. Friends and family who have gone to Planned Parenthood when they couldn't afford birth control, when they needed pap smears and cancer screenings, when they just needed a reputable doctor that was knowledgeable about reproductive health--these are the people who are directly hurt by attacks on Planned Parenthood.
If lawmakers continue their attacks on Planned Parenthood and on affordable healthcare as a whole, millions of Americans who rely upon these resources would suffer in the name of tax breaks and budget reconciliations. With lives quite literally at risk, it is now more important than ever that they stand with their constituents, stand with health care, and stand with Planned Parenthood.
What we’re seeing instead, however, is our lawmakers attacking people’s rights to access affordable health care and to decide what to do with their bodies.
In just the last few years, our legislature has placed undue burdens on Hoosier women who seek abortions. From required counseling to mandatory wait periods, the restrictions are unnecessary and seek to advance myths about why women seek out abortions. Such myths include the notions that women who seek out abortions are being coerced or that they will later regret having an abortion, both of which have been proven to be untrue.
The Guttmacher Institute reported that less than one percent of women cited coercion as a reason for seeking out an abortion. According to a study done at the University of California, 95% of women who have had abortions ultimately feel that they made the right decision, and the study makes note that there is a distinctive difference between experiencing negative emotions post-abortion and regretting having the abortion altogether.
For our lawmakers to pass legislation regulating and restricting access to affordable, high-quality reproductive healthcare based on myths and debunked rumors about abortion is not only reckless. It is a conscious decision to neglect their constituents’ needs, to place their personal agendas over the very clear needs of those they are supposed to represent.
Furthermore, these measures, seeking to defund Planned Parenthood and other centers that provide abortions, willfully ignore that these centers do more work in reducing abortions than any anti-choice legislation could ever do.
In fact, only 7% of the work that Planned Parenthood does in Indiana involves abortions precisely because the preventive services they provide to women in need help those women avoid unintended pregnancies in the first place.
After five Planned Parenthood clinics were shut down in Indiana following legislative attacks on the organization, there was a 14% drop in the state’s abortion rate between 2011 and 2014, according to the Guttmacher Institute. However, the abortion rates in some neighboring states saw spikes. In Michigan, for example, the number of non-resident abortions nearly doubled during that period.
The national abortion rate is at its lowest in years, but legislators like Messer and Young do not want to admit that these numbers are directly correlated with women’s ability to seek out important reproductive health services, e.g. family planning, sexual education, birth control, and emergency contraception.
However, if they continue their attacks on reproductive health care and Planned Parenthood, the abortion rates will climb again. Women will seek these services out-of-state, or they will resort to much more dangerous measures as they have in the past.
Additionally, family planning services save more money in the long run: in 2010, the services provided by federally funded family planning visits saved the federal and state governments more than 13 billion dollars that would have otherwise been used to pay for the medical costs of pregnancy, delivery, and early childhood care, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
‘Pro-life’ legislators have made it starkly clear that they are willing to lay down the lives of innocent Americans in pursuit of their mission to destroy Planned Parenthood.
What we the people must decide, then, is whether we are more interested in saving lives or in perpetuating the fictional notion of saving money by redirecting federal funds away from Planned Parenthood.
To promote an agenda that truly values life requires us to recognize that Planned Parenthood saves lives, and to stand up for the tens of thousands of Hoosiers and millions of Americans who rely upon them each year.