Rice for Reproductive Justice held an event Tuesday, Sept. 29, entitled #Stand- WithPP Pink-Out Day. RRJ photographed students holding up signs in support of Planned Parenthood, collected petitions and talked with students about the services Planned Parenthood provides and Congress’ recent efforts to defund the organization.
I spoke with Regina Aleis and Bridget Schilling, co-presidents of RRJ, who thought the event was necessary to combat political apathy and misconceptions of Planned Parenthood.
“I think the event was important to have because it demonstrates actual support for an organization that positively affects millions of people. Even though a lot of people at Rice support Planned Parenthood and reproductive justice, that does not always translate into action of any kind,” Schilling, a Lovett College junior, said.
Aleis, a Lovett College senior, told me many students were unsure about what has happened in Congress.
“Some people seemed informed, but others assumed that ... Planned Parenthood had lost the fight and it was over,” Aleis said.
The back and forth in popular media combined with partisan politics may make the whole matter confusing to students. The reality of the situation is less confusing than it might seem, and Rice students need to pay attention and take action to support Planned Parenthood.
This summer, a controversial pseudoscience anti-abortion organization, misleadingly called the Center for Medical Progress, released a number of heavily edited “sting” videos accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting off illegal abortion procedures. At least six states investigated the CMP’s claims, but none found evidence of illegal activity.
Since then, several politicians capitalized on the not-so-coincidentally-timed videos to garner political support from voters. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, R-T.X., has made defunding Planned Parenthood a central goal of his campaign and in Congress, in a seriously misguided attempt to appeal to constituents and voters.
Cruz has tried to frame his arguments against funding Planned Parenthood from an anti-abortion standpoint, but the Hyde Amendment already bars any federal funding of abortion, except in the rare case of rape, incest or life endangerment of a Medicaid patient.
A recent poll commissioned by Planned Parenthood and conducted by Hart Research Associates showed that a majority of registered voters oppose defunding the organization, including 52 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Independents. Pushing to defund Planned Parenthood will also likely hurt candidates in the elections: The same poll showed that nearly six in 10 voters said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who did not support efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
Similarly, under pressure from politically motivated anti-abortion organizations, many other presidential candidates also pledged to defund Planned Parenthood. Members of Congress followed their lead and proposed legislation to do so. President Barack Obama announced he will veto any legislation that defunds the organization.
The House of Representatives and Senate proposed the defunding legislation anyway. The House passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood for a year, but Democrats and a few Republicans blocked the Senate version. Congress’ attempt to defund Planned Parenthood was a symbolic attempt to appease interest groups and, quite simply, a waste of time.
No matter how extremists try to demonize the organization, the reality is that Planned Parenthood provides life-saving healthcare.
Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive services prevent an estimated 515,000 unintended pregnancies each year, which prevents an estimated 216,000 abortions — something we can all support, whether we identify as pro-life or pro-choice. As if preventing unintended pregnancies and abortions wasn’t enough, in 2010, taxpayers saved over $7 for every $1 invested in family planning services.
But the scope of care Planned Parenthood provides is far wider than pregnancy prevention. The organization is instrumental in screening for and treating conditions like cervical cancer, breast cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis — conditions which can lead to potentially fatal complications. Planned Parenthood also diagnoses and treats sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and is essential in preventing widespread outbreaks of infections.
Defunding Planned Parenthood attacks the poor, people of color, young folks and LGBTQ individuals. Their clinics provide affordable, high-quality care to people who need it most and who would otherwise go without care. These economically vulnerable populations are the most impacted when family planning facilities like Planned Parenthood, often the only affordable source of healthcare, are closed, according to a report by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
Opponents of Planned Parenthood argue that other publicly funded clinics could meet the demand left by a defunding of Planned Parenthood. However, in states like Texas, where the legislature has slashed family planning programs, alternative family planning clinics have been hit hard. In 2011, the Texas legislature cut family planning funding by two thirds, which caused 76 clinics (including dozens unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood and that did not provide abortion services) across the state to cut staff, reduce services, increase prices and, in some cases, close altogether, according to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s 2013 Nuestro Texas report.
It’s not just Texas. The U.S. simply lacks the public health infrastructure to serve patients who would need care if Planned Parenthood became unaffordable for lowincome individuals or closed its clinics. Not only do existing clinics lack the capacity to handle a greater volume of patients, but the resulting unintended pregnancies, cancers, infections and other health concerns Planned Parenthood previously addressed would result in astronomical costs for taxpayers.
There’s good news, though — your individual actions can have a massive impact on public health. Register to vote if you haven’t already, vote for candidates who value people over politics and publicly stand with Planned Parenthood. Although it might be a little uncomfortable, talk about Planned Parenthood with your friends and let them know why you support funding the organization.
Promoting public health, preventing unintended pregnancies and saving taxpayers’ money? Those are reasons for us all to #StandWithPP.
Will Rice College senior Micaela Canales contributed to this op-ed.