Planned Parenthood: Is GOP Wrong About Its Mission?

Earlier this year, members of the GOP, including Congressman Diane Black (R-Tenn.), wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking them to investigate Planned Parenthood's use of federal funding. The aim is to show whether or not they abuse the government's guidelines in relation to spending on abortions, which due to the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds on abortions. Two Republican lawmakers introduced identical bills in the House in the same week, alleging Planned Parenthood indirectly pays for abortion services by reducing the cost of their other services.

They have used deceptive language referring to Planned Parenthood as a, "big abortion business." Senator John Kyl (R-Ariz.) previously made false claims that 90% of Planned Parenthood's services are abortions, when he defended the possible 2011 government shutdown over the issue. He later retracted his statement saying that it was meant to highlight how the organization subsidizes abortions by way of tax dollars.

Along with Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report, they released a fact sheet, which indicates that only 3% of their services are abortions. That means that 97% of their services are actually for preventative care, something Republicans seem to have mistaken.

Planned Parenthood's mission is to provide contraception and health services to men and women, fund birth control research and educate specialists and the general public, and advance access to family planning. Their comprehensive offering of services focus on the prevention of unintended pregnancy, which includes access to contraception and educational programs. Annually, they administer 585,000 Pap tests; 640,000 breast exams, which is critical in detecting cancer; 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections's; and education programs through affiliates that help 1 million youth and adults. 

The organization's reach is vast — 3 million women go to them to obtain health services and family planning and one in five women in the U.S. has visited a Planned Parenthood health center at least once in their life. They play a crucial role in low-income and rural areas, and  Cecile Richards, president of the organization, says "For more than half our patients, Planned Parenthood is the only nurse or doctor they will see all year." 

It is fair to say that the divide amongst lawmakers has diverted attention away from the heart of Planned Parenthood's services, family planning. In response to the GAO's investigation, Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, responded in a joint statement, “This has nothing to do with accountability and everything to do with an ideological crusade against women’s health, reminding the American people that while Republicans may not be interested in averting the sequester’s disastrous cuts, they are interested in getting between women and their doctors and limiting women’s health choices.” 

The misleading perception the republicans are promulgating with their recent legislation could hurt them in the long run because the general public understands the value of organizations like Planned Parenthood. According to Hart Research Associates, 62% of voters in the 2012 presidential election disagreed with Mitt Romney's position to defund Planned Parenthood. Perhaps Republicans should reconsider slashing funding to Planned Parenthood, because if the 2012 presidential election was any indication of what matters to voters, they may end up on the losing side in 2014.

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Laura Gillen

Background in international development and women's empowerment. Avid tennis player, runner, sailor, and yogi. D.C. based.

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