Walking to campus after 10 pm, you know you are in good company. While campus is almost empty, each rare soul you see is in the same boat as you: a fellow procrastinator making exodus to a night at the library of coffee and cramming. Yet tonight’s walk was a little different. As I made my way, nodding in solidarity at each passerby, I saw something written in chalk on the cement in front of Hellemes. In large pink letters it read “#defundPP.” I continued walking, deeming it impossible, or perhaps a joke, that my college campus in the liberal mecca of Boulder could have the words “Defund Planned Parenthood” pasted on its sidewalk. However, a few feet ahead there was another message announcing that a female pro-life activist will be giving a talk at CU this upcoming Monday. Upon reading this, I was a bit angry. I try to remain open to all dialogue, but for me the notion to defund a public health center that provides lifesaving services to millions of Americans is backwards and it is ignorant.
But which facet of my identity does pro-life rhetoric seem to puncture? While lots of it does stem from my gender as woman, the issue of reproductive rights is more intersectional than it appears to most, overlapping with issues of equality, health, safety and democracy. On top of this, the notion of defunding Planned Parenthood because of their controversial linkage to abortion, is counterproductive. While yes, Planned Parenthood provides legal abortions based on each state’s parameters, the other majority of their services make it so women can avoid that decision completely. I am occasionally confronted with the “social liberal, but fiscal conservative”, who while “cares about women’s rights”, will ultimately choose a candidate for their economic policy, because that is what they find most important. However what these individuals fail to see is the interconnectedness and meaning within policies. There is reason why topics like abortion and Planned Parenthood, and other “social issues” have continued to be at the front of many political debates: because they matter. Defunding a health center, restricting abortions, and limiting affordable access to contraceptives are not simply women’s issues, but are loaded threats to the democratic system and human rights.
Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health services to 2.5 million patients (men and women) a year. While Planned Parenthood is constantly referred to as an abortion clinic by pro-life activists and conservative politicians, of the total amount of services provided by the health center, abortions make up three percent. That service is also not covered by the $500 million in federal funding, as it is illegal for taxpayer money to go towards abortions in the United States.
The other majority of services include sex education, pregnancy prevention/birth control, pregnancy tests, prenatal care, STD screening and treatment, pap smears, breast exams and research towards women’s health. Without these services, millions of people would lose access to contraceptives, preemptive healthcare, medical treatment and the invaluable knowledge of safe sex. Planned Parenthood also estimates that their services help prevent around 579,000 unintended pregnancies each year. If public funds were to be blocked or clinics were to be forced to close, women, particularly low-income women, would be the most vulnerable to this policy shift.
This is a gendered issue that targets women, limiting their voice and robbing them, robbing us, of the sovereignty over our own bodies- and this matters. To limit the right to standard healthcare is unconstitutional and undemocratic, especially when its justification comes from religious beliefs and powerful lobbyist groups. In the case of defunding Planned Parenthood, politicians are gaining momentum on an issue that is not backed by facts but rather rumor and assumption.
There would also be very tangible costs to women losing these health benefits that bleed into issues outside women’s rights. This September, the Congressional Budget Office issued a report stating that defunding Planned Parenthood would cost the U.S. government tens of millions of dollars and limit health access for 650,000 individuals. These costs are due to the increase in unwanted pregnancies and associated health problems, which Medicaid and Emergency Room visits will have to then cover. Thus, to defund such a facility would be economically irresponsible.
So while issues circulating around Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights are undeniably women’s issues, they do go outside the realm of gender. Ideologically, they question democracy through creating systems of misinformed gaps between voters and their representatives.
Loss of such health access, will amount to immense economic costs to the state, thus being fiscally irresponsible. They also connect women’s rights to the social injustice inflicted upon marginalized groups, as it is lower-income and rural women that depend the most on publically funded health centers.