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Defunding Planned Parenthood is more than a political issue

Written by Ariel Pan

On Monday, Jan. 23, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to defund International Planned Parenthood, leaving other countries to decide whether to keep their abortion services or cut them in favor of receiving American aid. But even before his inauguration, Republicans have been pushing a bill that will repeal the Affordable Care Act which also contains a controversial provision to defund Planned Parenthood in the U.S.. Planned Parenthood,however, should not be defunded because it provides more than just abortion services; defunding it can have a far greater cost than supporters of the bill expect.

The main reason Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood is the health provider’s abortion services, since many Republicans are pro-life, or anti-abortion. However, Planned Parenthood provides many other health care services, such as STD tests and treatments, sex education, breast exams, birth control and general health care, including vaccines. According to the Planned Parenthood website, abortion only makes up 3 percent of their total services, a small number that is taken out of proportion considering that their abortion services are what pro-life supporters target Planned Parenthood for. Abortion is not the clients’ first option—Planned Parenthood’s family planning and contraception services prevent the necessity of abortions in the first place.

In addition, the phrase “defunding Planned Parenthood” is in itself, misleading. The phrase conjures images that taking money away from Planned Parenthood will cause the organization to close down due to the inability to keep its facilities running. That, however, is not the case. What really happens is that when a patient goes to Planned Parenthood, they can have most of their bill paid off by the federal government through Medicaid insurance. The bill Republicans propose would criminalize using Medicaid at Planned Parenthood. If a patient wants to keep seeing their regular doctor at Planned Parenthood, they will have to pay the sticker price (up to $800 for abortion pills, up to $1500 for in-clinic abortions, according to the Planned Parenthood website), which is too high for many low-income individuals. In reality, defunding Planned Parenthood is not taking money away from the healthcare provider, but from people who need medical care. Ironically, this bill will mostly affect the non-abortion services Planned Parenthood offers. Medicaid is already barred from using federal funds to pay for abortions or abortion-related treatments and consultations—unless there are special circumstances. Taking away federal funding will not affect how Planned Parenthood deals with abortions, but will make other services far more expensive to pay for.

Republicans plan to give the Planned Parenthood funds to federal community health centers, since women can supposedly get full health coverage there as well. However, many of these health centers do not provide family planning and would likely need to hire or train new people. But even if they do, they cannot withstand the influx of new patients because there simply is not enough room. According to George Washington University health policy and law professor Sara Rosenbaum, the health centers are already packed with 25 million patients and adding 2 million more will overrun the system. Planned Parenthood also makes the argument that, in 20 percent of the counties they serve, they are the only health provider for low-income women. If they are defunded, then new health centers will need to be built in those areas, a process which takes time and money. In addition, according to a 2015 Congressional Budget Office analysis, defunding Planned Parenthood will actually cost the government $130 million over 10 years, due to an increase in unintended pregnancies and subsequent child healthcare.

To oppose this bill, people can get involved. Simple options include creating or signing petitions to keep federal funding for Planned Parenthood and keep informed of any changes in policy. Defunding Planned Parenthood will give pro-life supporters what they want—limited access to abortions—but at what cost to those who are not seeking abortion services?

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