I try to make a case for Planned Parenthood whenever I can. I follow them on Twitter, read their Facebook posts and get loud when I feel like the signal-to-noise ratio needs adjusting. They are a provider of plain old health care for a lot of women. These services and referrals are important to a many people who will never have an abortion.
[Interesting aside: While researching this bit, I was looking for an example in Texas where the closure of a PP clinic meant 130,000 women would have no access to regular preventative plain old health care. What I found was a headline that said: “Texas Planned Parenthood CEO busted for exposing self: cops” Without defending the guy who allegedly exposed himself in public, the headline is misleading. He’s CEO/Pres of the PP office in Lubbuck, not the entire state of Texas.]
None of this means anything to the pro-life conservatives. In their view, Planned Parenthood provides abortion services for women, so they must be shut down. To deviate from this view means more babies will die.
I was told that bringing up the non-abortion services was akin to saying Hilter was good to his dog. To an absolutist, Planned Parenthood is an evil, abortion factory in which the people who work there delight in the slaughter of innocent babies, which they will gladly do right up until your due date.
There is no arguing with people who believe their cause is righteous. There is no negotiation with absolutists. But the world is not full of absolutists. So I try to make a case for the reasonable people to understand.
My brother recently posted a story about Planned Parenthood under the headline “The Numbers Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Want You To See.” The headline is misleading, in that the article is a summary of numbers published in the Guttmacher Institute’s annual report, so there hasn’t been any effort to hide them.
The article stems from a widely reported statistic that only three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are for abortion. That other 97 percent? Evil by association. The federal government only funds that evil-by-association 97 percent, but the author has an interesting take on the numbers:
Planned Parenthood provided a total of 11,003,336 services (breast exams, birth control, STD and pregnancy tests, abortions, etc) to three million clients in 2010. 329,445 of those services were actual abortion procedures. That’s where the “3%” claim comes from. If we use Planned Parenthood’s logic, we can equate an invasive surgical abortion procedure to handing someone a condom. [emphasis in original]
So the three percent comes from the fact that abortion is three percent of what they do? How dare they! That 11 million services figure includes both the evil three and the evil-by-association 97. In other words, everything they do. You know what’s included in “everything?” Handing out condoms. And, for the sake of argument, what if they weren’t there handing out condoms? Seems like that would lead to more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.
The article cites a comparison of the number of patients PP saw in 2010 (which is 3 million) to the number of patients getting an abortion (329,445). That’s just under 11 percent of PP patients receiving abortions. The author sees this as deceptive because . . . uh . . . 11 percent is bigger than three percent, I guess.
The next number estimates how much money Planned Parenthood makes on abortions. The average out-of-pocket cost for a patient getting a surgical abortion is $451. Multiply that by 329,445 procedures and you get $148,579,695. Therefore, “Abortion is Planned Parenthood’s cash cow.”
I’ve read and heard many conservatives make the argument that people who work for Planned Parenthood just loooooooove killing babies. It’s their bread-and-butter and the reason they get up each morning. They whistle a happy tune thinking about how rich they’re getting off baby killing. It’s not like you can only be three percent evil, right? This is how they make their money, so why would they want to do less of it?
Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization. Most of their money comes from grants and donations. Much of what they are given comes with strings. For the federal government (and many states), a big string is that none of the money can fund abortions. So the patient has to bear some of the cost. Conservatives don’t want tax money funding abortions and then get mad when patients fund them because PP is charging money for abortions!
The people who work there do not get rich on government grants and abortions. They hand out condoms like candy to prevent pregnancy. They offer cheap or free contraceptives for the same reason. Why spend so much effort to prevent unwanted pregnancy if your goal is more abortions? Maybe because their goal is to protect the legal rights of women to get an abortion and provide a safe environment to do so. (In my head, I heard my conservative friends all say at once “It’s not a safe environment for the baby!” Which goes back to the old argument of when a zygote becomes a person).
The article continues by showing that PP provides 27.2 percent of abortions in the country, making it the largest provider of abortion services in the U.S. So nearly one in three women who seek abortions go to Planned Parenthood, a clinic that provides abortion services.
The next number compares the ratio between PP patients who are pregnant and PP patients who get an abortion. It shows nine out of ten pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood have an abortion. That’s a shame, in that there are so many unwanted pregnancies in this country. But there is nothing surprising about it. If you want to terminate a pregnancy, you go to a clinic that provides that service. The author suggests that PP is somehow counseling these women to abort so the clinic can make more money. It’s much more likely (9 in ten, remember?) that she’s there for an abortion because that’s the only place to go.
The argument they want to make is that 100 percent of pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood aren’t really sure what they want, but PP staff manages to talk 90 percent of them into having an abortion. There is no evidence of that in the numbers, but when you believe everything about PP is evil, it isn’t hard to think they are capable of anything.
So let’s review: One in three women who seek an abortion go to Planned Parenthood. These women make up 90 percent of the pregnant patients there, but only 11 percent of the total patients PP sees. This 11 percent funds 17 percent of PP’s budget. None of this means anything to absolutists because Planned Parenthood provides abortion services.
In the last year, a bunch of states have proposed or enacted laws restricting access to abortion. These legislative and duly elected bodies believe it should be as hard as possible for a woman and her doctor to talk freely about abortion, come to a decision about it, schedule the procedure and end the pregnancy.
So even though abortion is legal, these Republicans take it upon themselves to throw up as many obstacles as possible. These usually fit into four categories:
1) Regulations that make it difficult to provide the service.
These are called TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers). In Kansas, for example, the legislature created regulations that included the size of the janitorial closet at any clinic providing abortion services. They sent a letter giving the clinics two weeks to comply with these new codes or shut down.
2) Regulations that shame or punish the woman in the guise of helping her make an “informed choice.”
This includes waiting periods to give women a chance to think about what they’re doing. Because you know they haven’t thought about it before they got there.
This also includes mandatory scripts your doctor must read to you. These usually contain medically questionable or false information about abortion that your doctor doesn’t believe, but the state wants you to hear anyway.
There are laws dictating medically unnecessary and sometimes invasive procedures be performed on the woman before she can have an abortion. In Texas, this includes forcing the woman to pay to have a probe inserted into her vagina and being forced to look at an ultrasound image. This was almost the case in Virginia too, but the governor got scared and changed the bill. Instead, the woman can choose which kind of medically unnecessary ultrasound she pays for.
As the argument goes, if you’re a woman seeking an abortion, you need to make an informed choice. To do that, you need misinformation parroted through your doctor, a medically unnecessary procedures that you must pay for and a waiting period so you can think about what you’ve seen, heard and felt that day.
Because there is no way you’ve thought this thing through before you got there, right?
In Arizona, the state senate passed a bill saying it was legal for a doctor not to tell the woman something medically relevant (a lie of omission) if it means the woman won’t get an abortion. So it isn’t enough to lie to the woman, you also need to withhold the truth. You know, so you can make an informed decision.
3) Cut off funding of organizations that provide the service.
No federal funding goes to the evil three percent, just the evil-by-association 97 percent that’s plain old health care. Regardless, Republicans are working to completely divest the federal government from Planned Parenthood. The 89 percent of PP’s patients that have no interest in abortion can go pound sand, I guess.
“But that federal money frees up other funds that can be used to subsidize abortion.” “No tax dollars should go to any organization that provides abortions.” Sorry 89 percent of patients at Planned Parenthood, but the 11 percent of evil ones are ruining it for everyone.
See, conservatives are worried about taint. Money spent on Planned Parenthood is tainted. Money spent by PP patients is tainted. People who go to PP for services other than abortion are tainted because too many conservatives don’t believe that PP is providing any services other than abortion.
4) Spread misinformation about Planned Parenthood.
Conservatives have a lot of “facts” to spout about Planned Parenthood. Here are some I’ve encountered.
“If you support Planned Parenthood, you’re a racist.”
I had one friend call me a racist for supporting Planned Parenthood because the purpose of PP is to kill black babies. “That’s their founding mission,” he said. This stems from the writings of Margaret Sanger, an early advocate of family planning and founder of an organization that was later folded into what we now call Planned Parenthood. In the early 1900s she advocated voluntary sterilization of people who were incapable of producing a healthy child. Culling out the bad genes in the pool through sterilization is called eugenics. During that same time, the leading voices in eugenics advocated using it to ensure racial purity or other long-since discredited nonsense. Though Sanger never advocated this aspect of eugenics, she’s nonetheless lumped in with the racists. Therefore, Planned Parenthood wants to kill black babies and I’m a racist for supporting them.
“They are an abortion factory that doesn’t really provide health care for women.”
On April 8, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said on the Senate floor that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” We know from reviewing the numbers that this isn’t true. Kyl’s office released a statement later that day saying “‘his remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, a organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions.” In other words, sure he was lying but he wanted to draw attention to something you may not have known: Planned Parenthood offers abortion services.
“Abortion causes breast cancer.”
This is a favorite of the right. It’s usually included in those mandatory scripts doctors are forced to read to patients. It isn’t true, in that there has never been a study that proves a causal link between abortion and breast cancer. They weasel the argument by saying carrying the baby to term can lower the risk of breast cancer. See how that works?
“The baby can feel pain even in the first trimester.”
Nope. Fetal cells might react to trauma, but to feel pain, you have to have a neocortex. That doesn’t happen until early in the third trimester.
“Emergency contraception causes abortions.”
I’ve covered that more thoroughly here, but basically no. No it doesn’t. It prevents pregnancy, it doesn’t end one. If you’re pregnant when you take emergency contraception, it has no effect.
“You just want to increase the number of abortions.”
I’m not pro-abortion. I’m really not. But I am pro-woman, pro-health care, pro-contraception and pro-sex education. I’m pro-choice and believe that a decision as solemn as ending a pregnancy should be made between a doctor and patient. I once asked in a conservative forum what gave them the right to get between a woman and her doctor. The response was predictable. “Anyone with a conscience has the right to stop a woman from killing her baby.”
Like I said, there is no arguing with absolutists. You can’t argue the line between fetus and baby. You can’t argue with someone who believes a clump of cells the size of the period at the end of this sentence is a human.
I stand with Planned Parenthood because I believe the forces against them have no respect for the rights of the women. They believe their religious objections should trump any right to privacy and that they know better than the woman if she’s capable of raising a child. These are the same people who want abstinence-only education in schools and to ban contraception, regardless of the fact that comprehensive sex education and access to birth control leads to fewer abortions.
“I don’t want fewer. I want none.” You cannot argue or negotiate with absolutists.