Written by Ashley Monet Stamps- Lafont
Edited by Sinead O’Ferrall & Helen Myrr
We, the students of Global Health have published several blogs covering reproductive health services in low and middle-income countries. Now, it’s time to shed some light on a terse situation happening in, arguably, the most ‘free’ land in the world. The United States’ coverage of women’s health, reproductive health services in particular, has been thrust into the global spotlight in light of the upcoming 2016 Presidential election.
First on the docket lies the funding of the controversial health care service center, Planned Parenthood. Since it’s founding in 1916 by the late suffragette Margaret Sanger, the organization has touted itself as being a non-profit devoted to better health and better rights for women. Over the course of the years, Planned Parenthood has advocated for many causes in the U.S., including the legalization of abortion, the funding of breast cancer screening programs and better sexual education of adolescents.
Given the numerous services Planned Parenthood has provided to women in the US over the course of almost a century, the continued funding and support of the organization is an unlikely point of contention. However, Planned Parenthood has been plagued with scandal this year, based upon a viral video that insinuates the fetal tissue resulting from abortions is sold for profit to research centers.
Why is this an issue? There are a few reasons:
- A non-profit organization is just that – not for profit. Selling any goods or wares for profit would revoke non-profit status and the organization would have to be assessed as a business entity.
- Fetal tissue resulting from abortions are human remains, setting off a wide variety of moral and ethical debates about the proper disposal of remains.
- Conservatives and pro-life activists in the United States have a tense history with Planned Parenthood based on it’s abortion services, and are known to protest Planned Parenthood based upon its status as a legal provider of abortions in many U.S. states.
Republicans who have entered the 2016 U.S. Presidential race have debated the topic and all 11 top-ranked candidates have voiced their support for defunding Planned Parenthood. This sentiment was cemented by a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 30 2015 to defund the organization. The U.S. Congress later voted to continue funding the org, but only through Dec. 11 of this year.
When did women’s health become victim to political sentiment?
My personal opinion is that women’s bodies should absolutely not be policed, and the defunding of Planned Parenthood is only a thinly-veiled attempt to reopen national discussions concerning abortion. Since when did we start defunding organizations when not a single investigation has revealed truth to the speculation? Planned Parenthood was there for me during my college years when I was truly under-insured and needed guidance not just for sexual health, but for physical exams that were required by my university.
What happens if Planned Parenthood is defunded, indefinitely?
Planned Parenthood has been a beacon for low-income people to receive medical care. 10% of Americans are uninsured, and left to abandon when accessing health care services. The speculation surrounding the fetal tissue sales has done nothing more than provide the ammunition conservatives required to pass legislation that will disproportionately affect a population who, arguably, needs access to reproductive health services the most.
We’ve covered women’s health to a certain degree in low and middle-income countries but cannot turn our backs on the status quo in some high income countries. Planned Parenthood’s future is not certain, but whatever outcome there may be, women’s health and proper access to healthcare is an issue that deserves attention.