On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives voted to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding. Why?
Every year, Planned Parenthood provides 1 million cancer screenings, 830,000 breast exams, 4 million tests and treatments for STDs, educational programs to 1.2 million young people, and contraception to 2.5 million people.
Every year, Planned Parenthood prevents 612,000 unintended pregnancies. For every dollar spent on family planning assistance, the government makes back $4 in savings from Medicaid. Why then, would anyone want to cut this vital program? Does Congress really care so much about abortions (which are not included in Title X funding and only represent 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, anyway) that it is willing to sacrifice the health of millions of Americans?
At this point, any legislation limiting abortion or family planning or sex education has nothing to do with abortion and everything to do with controlling women. A 2007 World Health Organization study found that the rate of abortion in countries where the procedure was illegal is almost identical to the abortion rate in countries where it is legal.
Making abortion illegal does not stop it from occurring — it just drives it underground and makes it more dangerous. It is estimated that without family planning assistance, the U.S. abortion rate would be two-thirds higher than it is today. Planned Parenthood saves lives and prevents abortions.
While there are many respectable people who honestly feel abortion is immoral and support policies known to actually have an effect on abortion rates (such as comprehensive sex ed and birth control), the anti-choicers in Congress are not these people. They may hide behind rhetoric about the “sanctity of life,” but they do absolutely nothing to protect it.
These are the men (and a few women) who vote for unnecessary wars that lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, who vote to prevent affordable health care, who favor the death penalty, who feel that your right to own a gun is more important than your right to own your own body. They cut funding for programs that feed poor children, while vetoing tax increases for the super rich. They could not care less about the “sanctity of life.”
These men would love to see things go back to the days before Roe v. Wade. Through their legislative actions, they are saying they do not care that criminalizing abortion does not stop the procedure from being performed, or that women frequently die when trying to obtain illegal abortions. They are saying they want to punish us for having sex lives in the first place, and are appalled that women take control of their own lives, bodies and sexuality. This legislation represents nothing more than the most immature anger in response to a free and modern society in which they are no longer the sole masters.
But the women of this country will not go back. We will not go back to servile status, to forced pregnancy and certainly not to back alleys. We need to fight back. We need to scream and yell at the top of our lungs that we will not stand for this kind of attack.
For those who think this is a non-issue because the amendment still has to go to the Senate and the President: think again. Do not trust that this will end with a single House vote. This is all-out war on American women, waged by conservatives in Congress and elsewhere. This is just one of many assaults on women’s health and rights currently being introduced at both the federal and state level. Do not assume that the Senate and President will always vote in our favor. We need to take matters into our own hands.
If you haven’t already, sign the open letter to Congress being distributed by Planned Parenthood, share your Planned Parenthood stories, and consider making a donation. On Saturday there will be a rally in New York City, and many others are being planned across the country.
The conservatives in Congress have made their voices all too clearly heard. It is time for the women of this country, and all who support their equal rights, to answer.
Elizabeth Genné-Bacon is a first-year graduate student in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.