The argument for defunding Planned Parenthood is rooted mainly in misconception and in the pro-life movement. Political debates concerning Planned Parenthood give congressional representatives another way to fight over the issue of abortion. Abortion related services only make up 3 percent of the total services provided by Planned Parenthood. When we discuss Planned Parenthood as a proxy for abortion, we ignore 97 percent of the picture.
Planned Parenthood’s mission statement reads: “Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual’s income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin or residence.”
Planned Parenthood wants all people to be able to control what happens to their reproductive organs, regardless of their sex. According to its website, Planned Parenthood serves more than 2,840,000 people in the United States each year and more than 4,665,000 worldwide. Seventy-nine percent of its domestic clients live at or below 150 percent of the poverty line. One in five American women have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic at least once in their lives, and the percentage of men visiting clinics increased by 83 percent from 2002 to 2012.
The treatment and detection of STDs and STIs is the most popular service Planned Parenthood provides according to its website, with 4.5 million STD/STI tests administered each year, of which 700,000 are for HIV. Planned Parenthood clinics also provide screenings for testicular, breast and cervical cancers.
The second most popular service that Planned Parenthood provides is contraceptives. Eighty percent of all of the people who come to Planned Parenthood leave with some form of contraceptive in their hands. It is estimated that the services provided by Planned Parenthood prevent approximately 516,000 unintended pregnancies per year.
If Planned Parenthood’s opponents are against the organization because it provides abortions to 3 percent of its clients, then they should consider this: according to the Guttmacher Institute, four in 10 unintended pregnancies end in abortion. While Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services, it also provides people with the tools to prevent unintended pregnancy. The easiest way to make sure that abortion rates decline is to educate people on the circumstances leading to pregnancies.
Confusion also exists around how Planned Parenthood is funded. One misconception is that the organization runs entirely on government funding. The largest portion of Planned Parenthood’s revenue does come from Title X, which is a part of the Public Health Service Act that specifically sets aside federal dollars for family planning and contraceptive services. Planned Parenthood receives about 528.4 million dollars in Title X funding. Because of Section 1008 of Title X, federal funding is not, and cannot ever, be used to fund abortion.
Even though Planned Parenthood does receive funding from other sources, if the federal government defunded it, the organization would struggle to survive. Individual states could in theory fill funding gaps for local clinics, but it is more likely that more clinics would shut down entirely. Crippling an organization so instrumental to public health because of propaganda and rumor would be criminal.