Planned Parenthood, America’s first birth control clinic, opened its doors on October 16, 1916.
Nine days later it was shut down by police for the first time and its founder, Margaret Sanger, was thrown in jail. She provided the inmates with information about birth control while imprisoned. This set the tone for the next 100 years: opponents try to shut them down and they get back up.
Contrary to popular belief, the controversy that has always surrounded Planned Parenthood isn’t entirely about abortion. People have been trying to shut down Planned Parenthood since it opened, decades before abortion was even part of the equation. According to the website: “Planned Parenthood was founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams.”
This idea shouldn’t be revolutionary, but it is. Birth control used to be illegal. It challenged the notion that women’s only purpose was to be wives and mothers. The ability to prevent pregnancy gave women power over their bodies and their futures. More importantly, it challenged men’s power over them.
Planned Parenthood funded research that led to the development of the birth control pill in the 1950s. But it wasn’t until 1965 that the Supreme Court ruled married couples could legally use birth control. The Supreme Court didn’t grant unmarried people the right to use birth control until 1972. The fact that the Supreme Court had to get involved in the first place is mind-boggling. Why the fuck has it ever been the government’s business whether or not people are having sex?
Not to mention the various reasons women use birth control other than preventing pregnancy including treating irregular periods, painful periods, endometriosis, acne, severe PMS, primary ovarian insufficiency, polycystic ovary syndrome, etc. But the reasons women use birth control fall squarely under the headings of None-of-Your-Fucking-Business and Deeply-Irrelevant-to-You. And if you didn’t know that birth control was used to treat all of those issues, you aren’t informed enough to have an opinion on the topic.
Abortion didn’t become a service provided by Planned Parenthood until it was legalized. Some historians have claimed that Planned Parenthood helped women access safe abortions from underground networks such as the Jane Collective. However, Planned Parenthood has never confirmed this.
Prior to Roe v. Wade it is estimated as many as 5,000 American women died annually as a result of unsafe, illegal abortions. Planned Parenthood didn’t set out to increase the number of abortions performed; they set out to decrease the number of women who died from them.
Today Planned Parenthood reports that abortions comprise 3% of their services. Anti-abortion groups claim that it’s 94%. Both numbers are misleading, however Planned Parenthood’s number is closer to the truth. It’s impossible to say with total accuracy due to limited data, but The Washington Post calculates it’s most likely around 7–14%.
If you visited Planned Parenthood’s website directly after the election, the first thing you would’ve seen was a plea. “Planned Parenthood health centers and patients will face unprecedented dangers in the coming months. We’re counting on you to help us continue our work to protect and promote reproductive health and rights.”
Since the election of Donald Trump, Planned Parenthood has received almost 80,000 donations. Twenty thousand of those donations were made in the name of future VP Mike Pence, with the receipts being sent to his office in Indianapolis. But do not mistake this as a sign that Planned Parenthood is safe. It isn’t. This influx is the social equivalent of people stocking up on canned goods as a blizzard rapidly approaches. A storm is coming and Planned Parenthood is desperately trying to prepare for it.
Trump has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood as long as it continues providing abortions. Pence has already worked tirelessly to defund Planned Parenthood in Indiana and has made it clear he will continue his efforts at the national level come January. In 2014 he cut Indiana’s Planned Parenthood funding in half. This forced five clinics (none of which had provided abortions but did provide STD testing services) to shut down, leading to an HIV outbreak.
When people talk about defunding Planned Parenthood they are talking about cutting off federal funding. The majority of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from Title X and Medicaid. However, it doesn’t make any sense for anti-abortion activists to demand Planned Parenthood lose its funding on those grounds. Title X money cannot be used for abortions. Medicaid money is only allowed to be used for abortions in cases of pregnancies resulting from incest and rape or to protect the life of the mother.
Opposition to birth control, and by extension Planned Parenthood, is founded in the belief that sex outside of heterosexual marriage and for reasons other than procreation is wrong. This is a biblical principle. However, there are those who believe this for nonreligious reasons as well. If you are one of the people who believe this, then that’s perfectly fine. You are free to believe whatever you wish. However, that does not give you the right to force your beliefs on others. It does not give you the right to deny others healthcare.
The federal government isn’t funding abortions through Planned Parenthood—except in very extreme circumstances. So defunding Planned Parenthood can only deprive women (mostly low income women) of other essential healthcare services such as STD testing, birth control, pap smears, breast cancer screenings, sexual education, etc. Despite constant, fierce attacks, Planned Parenthood has continued to provide necessary healthcare services to women for the past 100 years. The work they do saves lives.
Is that really less important than furthering a particular political agenda?