Illustration by Owen Thomas.
Illustration by Owen Thomas.

Planned Parenthood is under scrutiny for donating fetal tissue for research purposes, including the development of cures for illnesses including Alzheimer’s and AIDS. Many politicians, social groups and other anti-abortion activists are fighting to defund Planned Parenthood. While reproductive rights advocates believe laws should adapt to our rapidly shifting culture, the aformentioned groups hope to protect traditional, constitutional law, and oftentimes, religious doctrine, by shutting down organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Science and politics aside, there is a critical lack of understanding of how Planned Parenthood operates and the reality of its budget. It would be a mistake to shut it down when they provide so many services that are not abortion-related. 2.7 million women and men in the United States visit Planned Parenthood clinics every year, many of whom are college students who have no other affordable or confidential options.

Only 3 percent of the $528.4 million in government funds — a combination of state, federal and sometimes local government dollars — go toward abortion services. 42 percent of funds go directly to STI/D testing, 34 percent to contraception, 11 perent to other women’s health services, 9 percent to cancer screening and the remaining 1 percent to other services.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t actually use government funds for the abortion services it does provide — that would be illegal. The Hyde Amendment passed by Congress in 1976 made it so federal dollars cannot legally be used for abortions. The Amendment excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income citizens by the federal government through Medicaid. Congress has made some exceptions, which have varied over the years. Currently, federal Medicaid covers abortion procedures, but only in cases of rape or incest, as well as when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness or injury.

Shutting down Planned Parenthood can have damaging consequences.  In 2011, a clinic in Scott County, Indiana was one of five other Planned Parenthood facilities to be closed, leaving the town with no services like STI testing, when the city  makes no attempts to educate people on how to get them. This year, the New York Times reported over 150 cases of HIV outbreaks in Scotts county between late March and mid-May.

The Planned Parenthood facilities shut down in 2011 was due to one of many national and local political campaigns aiming to demonize Planned Parenthood. However, the Scott County clinic did not offer abortion services — the argument central to anti-abortion activists and those looking to defund the clinic. The HIV outbreak in Indiana was caused by intravenous drug use, which is not abortion related, and stresses the need for other services Planned Parenthood provides.

Planned Parenthood provides nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including 700,00 HIV tests nationally every year and the fact that Scott County was without a clinic gives its citizens no chance to educate themselves on HIV transmission, testing or treatment.

Planned Parenthood states on its website that their goal is to give people up-to-date, clear information that helps you better understand sexual wellbeing. They offer contraception, pelvic exams, Pap tests, and screenings for breast cancer—all vital health care needs for women. And for women with abnormal Pap test results, tests and treatments used to prevent cervical cancer — colposcopy, cryotherapy, and LEEP — can save lives. The services are not limited to women, as Planned Parenthood also offers services to men including condoms, STI/D testing and treatment, checkups for reproductive or sexual health problems, male infertility screening and more. Abortion procedures are a small facet of the services the facilities offer.

The fundamental lack of understanding of what Planned Parenthood is and the misinformation about how its clinics operate is dangerous. Asking to shut something down when it offers so much to the community is negligent, and depriving men and women of essential services they wouldn’t get otherwise.