Planned Parenthood is the perennial target of anti-abortion activists and legislators, but the attacks have been particularly intense this summer. In July an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress released several secretly recorded videos that allegedly show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the illegal sale of and profit from fetal tissue. (Planned Parenthood and pro-choice advocates and lawmakers insist that the videos have been "deceptively edited," and the nonpartisan, nonprofit web site FactCheck.org debunks the footage.) Last week, unidentified hackers temporarily shut down the organization's web site. And on Monday evening, the Senate voted on a Republican-sponsored bill that would have stripped federal funding from the national reproductive health organization had it not been defeated 53-46. The bill, S. 1881, is similar to a slew of previous bills that didn't make it out of the House. As the latest offensive continues, here are five reasons why it should matter to you.
1. Planned Parenthood is a major reproductive health care provider for communities of color.
Despite the attention anti-abortion activists and legislators pay to their abortion provision, Planned Parenthood clinics spend most of their time providing birth control, cancer screenings*, STD testing and treatment and other health-care services to both women and men.
Based on 2013 statistics the organization provided to Colorlines, Planned Parenthood served 11,500 Native Americans, 370,000 African-Americans (14 percent of their patients), and 575,000 Latinos (22 percent of their patients).
In the same year, 2.2 million, or 52 percent of all patient visits were made by people enrolled in Medicaid. Women of color are significantly more likely to receive Medicaid than white women. That's a lot of patients who will have to find care elsewhere if Planned Parenthood's ability to operate is limited by these campaigns.
2. If Planned Parenthood loses federal family-planning funding, it's unclear whether other community health care centers can pick up the slack.
In pushing for the legislation that narrowly failed to pass the Senate on Monday evening, Republican lawmakers, including presidential candidate Rand Paul, argued that the federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood could simply be redirected to other community health centers. (In 2013, Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million, reports the organization.)
But because about half of the organization's clinics are in rural or medically-underserved areas, Planned Parenthood is likely to be the only option in some communities. Thirty six percent of clients who get family planning services from a safety-net health center currently go to a Planned Parenthood clinic, more than any other provider, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
While there are other clinics capable of filling these gaps, it's unlikely that they would be prepared to absorb millions of patients quickly. We can look to Texas as an example of what can happen when these kind of policies move forward.
3. Even though the bill to defund Planned Parenthood failed to pass the Senate, states are implementing these measures directly.
While Congress has narrowly beaten back the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, states have been implementing these kind of measures. Texas is a few years into its campaign against the provider, and the impact on health care access, particularly in underserved border areas, has been immense.
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana announced earlier this week that Medicaid recipients in the state may no longer go to Planned Parenthood for services, cutting off care to an estimated 4,300 women in his already underserved state.
It's likely that we will continue to see state-level efforts that similarly jeopardize the health care provided by these clinics.
4. These attacks aren't just impacting Planned Parenthood.
While Planned Parenthood gets the most attention and has the most name recognition, these attacks are also impacting other reproductive health organizations. Last week hackers also brought down the websites of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) and the Abortion Care Network (ACN) using Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. NNAF is a network of grassroots funds that raise money for people who can't afford their abortion procedure, and ACN is a network of independent abortion providers.
5. This campaign is setting the stage for the 2016 election.
The Planned Parenthood debate isn't likely to disappear anytime soon, and presidential candidates on both sides are already trying to rally support using it talking point. It's indicative of just how political women's health care continues to be, and that the controversy is reaching beyond the limits of abortion to contraception and other reproductive health services. With more attention to the Latino and black vote going into this election, we'll likely see discussion of these issues through a racialized lens.
*Article has been updated to reflect that PP does not offer mammograms, as previously stated.