Planned Parenthood Faces Defunding

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The call for the federally-funded health clinic Planned Parenthood to be defunded has been brought up once again by Congress.

This initiative stems from a series of allegedly altered videos, which were secretly recorded and edited by anti-abortion activists from the Center for Medical Progress.

This past Tuesday in Washington D.C., House Republicans questioned Planned Parenthood President, Cecile Richards, about the legitimacy of the organization as well as its spending practices.

“The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood based on heavily doctored videos are offensive and categorically untrue,” Richards said. “I realize, though, that the facts have never gotten in the way of these campaigns to block women from health care they need and deserve.”

Republican House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetzo of Utah brought up an argument in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood separate from those whose arguments are solely based in the discussion of the sale of fetal tissue.

“The question before us is: Does this organization really need a federal subsidy?” Chaffetzo said. “Does it need federal dollars? Every time we spend a federal dollar, what we’re doing is pulling money out of somebody’s pocket and we’re giving it to somebody else. What I don’t want to become numb to is wasting those taxpayer dollars.”

The videos accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting off the sale of terminated fetuses for medical research. Planned Parenthood responded to allegations by saying that the videos in question were obtained without knowledge and were heavily altered, adding that the only legal compensation it received was for expenses.

The organization further denied that fetal tissues have ever been sold for revenue and stated that all mentioned transactions were strictly donations.

Despite confirmation that the video has been altered to skew the perception of Planned Parenthood, several politicians attest to its accuracy and are using it as a platform to promote pro-life stances.

Planned Parenthood claims its mission is to provide up-to-date, clear information to help better understand reproductive health.

The organization, founded in 1916, provides sexual health information, counseling, contraceptives, pelvic exams, pap tests, breast cancer screenings, preventative measures against cervical cancer and abortions for women in need, as well as STD screening for both men and women.

According to Planned Parenthood’s 2013-2014 annual report, abortions make up 3 percent of all utilized services.

While Planned Parenthood does provide abortions, it does so without federal aid. If the defunding initiative were to pass, it would do away with the 97 percent of non-abortion related health services available to women.

The motion to defund Planned Parenthood is not simply a strike on abortion, but an attack on women’s health, according to Edith Kuiper, a SUNY New Paltz professor specializing in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and economics.

“Some would say it’s a part of the war against women, it looks like that doesn’t it? And why would you want a war against women? It’s very strange” Kuiper said.

Kuiper moved from the Netherlands to the United States seven years ago. There, abortion is legal and women’s health care is viewed as a right. Kuiper noted the differences between the countries.

“We have special clinics where you can go, where no one is sitting out on the walkways, no one is threatening the doctors, there aren’t any demonstrations,” she said.

“The idea that there will be fewer abortions because the three percent of Planned Parenthood abortions will not take place is a fiction. It is a lie and it is just not true,” Kuiper said. “What is true is probably the opposite. There’s a big chance those abortions will be then performed in a very bad way. Women will lose a substantial amount of control over their body and the healthcare for women will decline.”

On Sept. 9, 31 House Republicans signed a letter committing to oppose any spending bill that mentioned funding Planned Parenthood.  Congress can lose only 28 GOP votes before relying on Democrats to pass the legislation. This has led the Republican Party to threaten the second government shut down in two years. The last shutdown cost taxpayers an estimated $24 billion in lost output and revenue. A second shutdown would have aggravated effects.

A shutdown is not the only solution being proposed. Options such as passing a stand-alone bill in conjunction with congressional hearings or reconciliation (fast-tracking the budget), which would require 51 votes to defund instead of 60, is also being proposed. Congress’s inability to work out the Planned Parenthood issue has the potential to severely damage its already dwindling reputation, as it promotes doubt of the government’s ability to function.

According to a Reteurs/Ipsos poll conducted in August, 54 percent of Americans were in favor of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, while only 26 percent opposed the continuation of federal financing for the organization.