planned parenthood myths

There’s some misinformation being thrown around that needs to be cleared up

I wrote recently about all the reasons that conservatives should support abortions; they all mostly fall into the financial category of “you and the rest of the country will all save money.” But now, republicans are seeking to strip funding from Planned Parenthood in order to “save money,” and claimed to be willing to shut down the government to achieve that overzealous end (though they did lose that game of chicken this time…).

Seems like there’s a lot of misinformation about Planned Parenthood floating around, but I’ve noticed that those misconceptions about funding and services are weaving their way into political debates as well as casual conversation, which is frightening. I’m sick of hearing misinformed political tirades. Here are some of the most common lies, misconceptions, and categorically false Planned Parenthood myths, debunked.

Planned Parenthood Is Illegally Selling Fetal Tissue For Profit

I thought the discussion around this one was pretty cut-and-dry. The verdict? A clean “uh, no. They’re not…Duh?” But this ridiculous assertion is still floating around in the mainstream, so now seems like a good time to explore this crazy claim again, hopefully for the last time.

First of all, all official investigations carried out in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, South Dakota, and Massachusetts found that Planned Parenthood did not break any state laws. In other words, the videos revealed no wrongdoing—there was none to reveal, as has now been proven. Repeatedly.

Besides, all of our standard rubella, mumps, measles, chicken pox, polio, rabies or hepatitis vaccines that save so many lives today were only made possible because fetal tissue extractions. Don’t have polio? Thank fetal tissue, which has been quietly used for decades since then in cutting edge medical research to cure diseases like ALS and Alzheimer’s. Fetal tissue cells are crucial to medical research, but extremely difficult to isolate and preserve—so difficult that vials of intact cells can cost thousands of dollars. Clinics like Planned Parenthood would not be able to preserve and deliver the tissue cells without being reimbursed for the difficult and costly procedure.

Also, I’ll just throw this out there: the going price for human organs on the black market runs in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe those prices get discounted a bit for fetal organs which aren’t yet fully formed, but $30 to $100? Does that really sound like a properly nefarious, profitable organ harvesting business to you??

The Federal Government Is Funding Planned Parenthood Abortions

No. They aren’t. About a third of Planned Parenthood funding does come from the federal government, in the ballpark of $500 million, but the vast majority of that funding comes from Medicaid or Title X, a family planning program for low-income families. By law, neither of those programs cover abortions except in certain special circumstances like rape.

Planned Parenthood is also funded on a state-to-state level, which means that even cutting funding on a federal level wouldn’t kill the organization, it would just cut off funding for the contraceptive and family planning services that prevent abortions. Conterproductive indeed. And besides…

Planned Parenthood Is Just One Giant Abortion Factory

Abortions comprise about 3% of all services provided by Planned Parenthood facilities, according to their 2013-2014 annual report. This means that abortions come in behind STD testing (42%), contraceptives (34%), pregnancy tests and prenatal services (11%), and cancer screening and prevention (9%).

This statistic is somewhat misleading as it counts services and not patients. Abortions come in at 3% of total services when counted equally with every other service provided, even though women sometimes come in for multiple services at once. A woman can come in for a pap smear, birth control, and a pregnancy test and would be counted 3 times, once in each category. Politifact has estimated that a per-person analysis indicates that 12% of patients receive abortions–higher than 3%, certainly, but a far cry from the 95% figure being thrown around.

A huge chunk of Planned Parenthood’s profit (Gasp! Yes, there’s profit. It’s a company. That’s how that works. It’s a good thing, too; we want women’s health services to be profitable enough to stay in business!) comes from abortion services. People take issue with this as well. But of course it’s expensive—it’s the only service the organization provides that isn’t subsidized by the federal government…which is exactly how its opponents want it! You can’t have it both ways: if you’re not going to fund it, you can’t be mad at the price tag.

If you want to be mad at the price tag anyway, that’s a whole other healthcare/pharmaceutical industry can of worms we can talk about….

There Are Plenty Of Other Women’s Health Clinics

One in five women has used a Planned Parenthood at some point in her life, and many depend on the clinics for regular gynecological exams or contraceptives. About 650,000 women would lose partial access to healthcare without Planned Parenthood services—mostly in poor, rural areas.

In 18 states, Planned Parenthood provides 40% of women access to birth control, and 50% or more in 11 other states. Some states, like Florida or Texas, house huge percentages of uninsured women, many of whom don’t have access to healthcare providers. 23 of Florida’s counties, for instance, don’t have any practicing OB/GYNs.

Planned Parenthood is a safety net for women to receive safe, comfortable, affordable healthcare in places where there are often no alternatives.

Defunding Planned Parenthood Will Save Money

Even our federal bookkeepers know that this isn’t true: not only will we not save money overall, defunding Planned Parenthood would actually force us to spend more money over time than we do now.

When the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the house measure to permanently defund Planned Parenthood, it concluded that the bill could save $235 million initially but would ultimately cost a net $130 million in the 2016-2025 period taking care of all those unplanned babies. And on that note…

We Can Totally Take Care Of All Those Unplanned Babies

No, we can’t. Or at least not without a substantial price tag.

My Beliefs…At Any Price

Okay, as far as I know nobody’s ever actually said this, but we just narrowly avoided another government shutdown because republicans felt like it was OK to hold congress at rhetorical gunpoint until they stripped away women’s reproductive rights like cranky and mean-spirited toddlers with political power who want that bowl of ice cream, or else.

Look, ice cream’s great, but you can’t throw a tantrum and break my stuff until you get it. Or if you do, just don’t tell me you’re being righteous. You don’t like abortion? Fine. There is room for ethical disagreement there, but you don’t get to hold Congress hostage until an entire umbrella women’s reproductive health organization is stripped of funding.

That would be like if I, as a vegetarian, demanded that the local grocery store that sold meat be shut down entirely, insisting that everyone could just shop at the pricier, much-farther-away Whole Foods from now on, even though a fifth of my neighborhood went to the local grocery store, even other vegetarians, because they couldn’t afford or access Whole Foods. That would be totally crazy, right? Tyrannical, even. That’s even crazy if you don’t assume that people’s lives and health sometimes depend on “meat.”

You can keep your opinion and fight against abortion all you want. But don’t let it affect other women’s health services. Oh, and get your facts straight.