It’s Not About Abortion

2 Feb

By Abby Finkelman. Originally published in the Saint Rose Chronicle, April, 2011.

Barack Obama has not done everything he said he would. Guantanamo Bay is still up and running (thriving, really; Khalid Sheik Mohammed is even going to be tried there), same-sex couples are still denied equal rights all over the place, huge corporations are still paying no taxes, health care reform was a joke—you get the idea. According the nonpartisan, Pulitzer Prize-winning site, he has actively broken 41 of his promises. As someone who cast a Democratic ballot in 2008, I am not impressed.

But two weeks ago, during the negotiations to prevent the federal government from shutting down, he said 12 words that make me forgive him almost all of it. “Nope. Zero. Nope. Zero, John, this is it. This is it, John.” The “John” was Speaker of the House John Boehner, and the “zero” was the amount of funding for Planned Parenthood that the president was going to let be cut.

The debate over federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and whether or not the Republican-controlled House was going to be able to cut it, has been fierce, inspiring petitions, letter-writing campaigns, and rallies all over the country (including in Albany). Even though Planned Parenthood receives only around $360 million a year (the federal budget is about $3.6 trillion), and even though only about 3% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion-related, and even though it is banned from using federal money for abortions anyway, the Republicans have been determined to destroy it.

But they didn’t. They’ve certainly destroyed other programs that help women, but, for now, Planned Parenthood stands. Some of you reading this may wonder why that’s such a good thing. Well, if Planned Parenthood spends only 3% of its time providing abortions (not all locations do so, and in many states it remains virtually impossible to get an abortion), it must be doing something for the other 97% of the time. Here are a few of the ways in which it fills that 97%.

Pelvic exams. Pap smears (which women need once a year). Confidential screening for STIs, for women and men. Birth control. The morning-after pill. Cancer screenings. The vast majority of these services will be provided to women who are poor, sometimes up to 150% below the poverty line. They provide them at reduced cost, or free. If you don’t like abortion, it’s estimated that Planned Parenthood’s services prevent 620,000 unplanned pregnancies and 220,000 abortions every year. They find countless cases of cancer and STIs, which might otherwise go untreated until it is too late.

If you think these things don’t apply to you, look around at the nearest five women. At least one of them will use Planned Parenthood in her lifetime. One in five. And more than a few men, but this is column is called the View from Venus. And the view today is cloudy. We don’t have equal pay, we don’t have maternity leave, we don’t have childcare, we don’t have solid rape, “domestic” violence, or sexual harassment laws, and TV networks seem to think we’re primarily interested in wedding dresses. But, for the moment, we will have a place to get reproductive care when we have nowhere else to go, control over our own destinies, and the power to grow up and start our own TV networks.


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