The news is filled with accusations against Planned Parenthood. I have gone to them for years. What happened? Should a sista’ be worried that her health center may close?
Planned Parenthood is a non-profit women’s health organization that has been providing women’s health care since the 1930’s- and has its roots in the women’s suffrage movement. Can you imagine a time when women could not obtain birth control? A time when a woman did not have the basic human right to control her own body?
More importantly, Planned Parenthood is about “us.” Fourteen percent of Planned Parenthood patients were African Americans — more than 370,000 people – in 2013. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of African-American patients increased by 12 percent, with a 126 percent increase in African-American male clients.
Moreover, according to the Guttmacher Institute, of the 20 million women who needed publicly funded family planning services in 2013, approximately 3.6 million were black and 4.9 million were Hispanic. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of women in need of publicly funded services who were Hispanic increased by 47%, the number of black women in need increased by 17%.
Now, what if we turned back the clock on access to women’s health care? What would happen if a large number of women of all races and ethnic backgrounds across the U.S. lost access to important health services such as birth control, cancer screenings, and treatment for STIs, or access to safe abortion care? Because that, my dear reader, is what the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates would happen if Planned Parenthood were to close. There would be an increase in unplanned pregnancies, and as a result an increase in abortions. The CBO also estimates that the closure of community-based women’s health services, like Planned Parenthood would cost the government tens of millions of dollars. This is what the Planned Parenthood leaders and supporters of women’s health are telling Congress- Bad things will happen if Planned Parenthood were to lose out on it’s funding- which to be clear is not direct support for the government for abortions or any other women’s health services- it’s just the ability to participate in Medicaid, like any other health center, doctor or hospital in the U.S.
Yes, if Planned Parenthood were to close, it will be a huge blow to women in the U.S., particularly the young and low-income women that depend on Planned Parenthood for their health care. But thankfully, it looks like the facts will prevail this time around. So, what’s happening? For decades, Planned Parenthood has been a central figure in the debate over abortion and has been a target of groups that seek to revoke women’s right to reproductive choice. It’s an old story that keeps rearing its ugly head with each political cycle or in this case with the passing of the annual government budget. The angle this time is not specifically about abortion, but about using donated fetal tissue for medical research. An anti-abortion group secretly recorded Planned Parenthood staff at a conference and created a video aimed to discredit the organization. The video accuses Planned Parenthood of illegally obtaining and selling fetal tissue from abortions. Accusations, which are totally false. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong, the anti-abortion group was successful in that they launched a media smear campaign intended to discredit Planned Parenthood and they got the attention they wanted.
What is “research using fetal tissue” and why is this a big deal?
Scientists use fetal cells (obtained from fetal tissue from abortions and miscarriages) in research because they divide quickly and adapt more easily than adult cells to new environments. Fetal cells have been used since the 1930’s for medical research and has contributed to treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, AIDS, and also autism. The vaccines used today that have saved millions of lives worldwide (small pox, measles, even chicken pox) were developed using fetal cells. This is such an important part of medicine and research that the National Institutes of Health spent over 76 million dollars in 2014 on research using fetal tissue. Check this out- U.S. News created a FAQ that clearly describes how fetal tissue for research is obtained and how this research has contributed to eradicating diseases.
Fetal tissue is only obtained from a woman that has given her consent for her blood and blood products to be used for medical research. Planned Parenthood has a consent process that is in line with federal regulations for the protection of human subjects. Should you be worried about your health center? Thankfully, it seems as if Planned Parenthood has dodged this latest attack, but there will likely be more attacks on women’s health in the future until the day that the political and cultural tide changes in the U.S.
Photo courtesy of Andy Katz/Rex The Guardian