The Right to Plan, Prepare, Prevent, and Choose

Planned Parenthood has been a source of controversy despite being a beneficial organization because of their stance on abortions.

March 4, 2016

Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides many sexual health services to both men and women. They offer numerous health services including cancer screenings, STD testing, family planning services, and so much more, and often these services benefit those with a low-income who have difficulty affording and accessing this care. Planned Parenthood and similar organizations, have received federal funding since 1970 with Title X of the Public Health Services Act, which made it easier for family planning programs to operate to their full potential. This opened the door for all women to have access to birth control methods, contraceptives, and abortions.

Abortions have been a subject of controversy since they were nationally legalized in 1973. Many people are against abortions because they feel that it’s murder of an unborn child; I can definitely see where they’re coming from although I personally disagree. These pro-life advocates believe that everyone should have the right to live and often preach alternatives such as adoption. But most do agree with exceptions in cases of rape or medical emergency. Those who believe that women should have the right to make the choice on what to do with their pregnancy, advocate body autonomy of the mother and women’s rights. Their beliefs are often referred to as pro-choice, emphasizing that someone can choose if they would like to continue the pregnancy or not. In fact many of these advocates personally wouldn’t get an abortion personally, but they don’t want the option to be taken away from others. Recently, the debate between these two groups has been featured as a popular issue among presidential candidates in many countries around the world.

Back in July of 2015, a pro-life group released a video about how Planned Parenthood supposedly “sells” fetal tissue for profit. Three members of the group posed as a research organization that utilizes fetal tissue and also supplies it to others and secretly filmed Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, speaking about the basic process of donating fetal tissue (which is completely legal). Many people were outraged by this video, but all it seemed like to me was that she was describing the process of donating fetal tissue. Honestly, I find more of a problem with people pretending to have a business and pretending to be pro-choice when their only goal is to take what someone says out of context. She did describe how much the organization would receive for each specimen, but there was very little context on what exactly was being discussed. Dr. Nucatola may have been speaking about how much they may be getting reimbursed for the cost of preserving and transporting the tissue, which is also legal and a pretty standard process for donating blood, tissue, organs, and other body parts for research. Donating tissue is extremely beneficial to medical research because it’s used to develop vaccines, treatment for HIV, and to repair DNA damage. This tissue is being put to good use to benefit billions of people around the world.

Another thing discussed by Dr. Nucatola was the techniques used to ensure that certain organs would stay intact. Many people feel that this may be slightly unsafe for the woman having the procedure done, but I don’t think that any reasonable doctor would risk a patient’s life to donate some fetal tissue. Doctors are trained to give each patient the best value of care possible.

But there is some controversy over some of the methods used in abortions, especially those performed in the second trimester, when the fetus is more developed and abortions are rarely performed. There have been legal battles surrounding certain methods since 2003. The “partial birth,” as it’s known to politicians, or intact dilation and extraction (IDX), as it’s actually known in the medical community has been the center of many of these debates. IDX is currently illegal despite the fact that the procedure is rarely performed- partially because only around 4-6% percent of abortions occur after the first trimester- but 90% of gyncologists agree that in some cases, it may be safer. This procedure is very similar to a typical dilation and extraction procedure except for the fact that the fetus remains intact. One of the main problems that some people have with IDX is that sometimes the fetus may not fully die until it has exited the body. But this procedure is rarely performed and does offer a better autopsy of the fetus to see if any birth defects were the cause and how they may be avoided for future pregnancies. The scary thing about the federal abortion ban is there being no medical exception, and sometimes this procedure may be necessary. Patients and doctors deserve all options open for the safest procedure possible.

Planned Parenthood and abortions have been a lively debate topic with this year’s presidential candidates. Republican nominee Donald Trump had some very surprising views on abortion and Planned Parenthood. Although he is pro-life (he’s the lead Republican nominee, after all), he seems much more relaxed about his views on abortion. During a GOP debate, Marco Rubio attacked Trump for defending Planned Parenthood, and Trump simply stated the facts. “Millions and millions of women—cervical cancer, breast cancer—are helped by Planned Parenthood,” Trump said. “So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly.” Although Trump still says that he wants to defund Planned Parenthood because they perform abortions, at least he’s not threatening to shut it down.

Dr. Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon running for president, had a very typical stance on the issue for a Republican. On his official campaign website he states “I, like many of you, was sickened when I saw the video of Dr. Deborah Nucatola of Planned Parenthood secretly video taped discussing selling aborted baby parts. I was more than sickened, I was enraged. I spent my whole life caring for children. What I see in this video is barbaric. Congress must ACT.” Although it’s fairly vague compared to the other candidates, you can clearly tell that he is not a fan of Planned Parenthood in any way, shape, or form.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, two of the Democratic nominees, have essentially the same views on women’s reproductive rights. On both of their political campaign websites, they both reference stopping “Republicans from defunding Planned Parenthood” in one way or another. They both believe that women should have the right to planning her family and have accessible resources to do so. Both candidates also did mention many of the other services that Planned Parenthood offers.  Something I definitely found interesting was the fact that on Dr. Carson’s page the same issue was referred to as simply abortion, despite it being a wide range of issues.

Personally, I disagree with the federal funding of Planned Parenthood because it gives the government power over a private business. This gives politicians a say in what they can provide for their clients and could limit the quality of care for patients. Although the government is the biggest contributor to Planned Parenthood, they would still be able to get donations from its many supporters including many celebrities and businesses. In fact, losing the government funding would likely encourage many people to donate to the organization. This would likely be in Planned Parenthood’s best interest.

Everyone deserves the right to choose when and if they want to have children and denying that right via putting restrictions on abortions and other sexual health services prohibits them from doing so. Everyone has body autonomy, rights to your body meaning that no one can use your body without your permission. This even extends to the deceased, if they didn’t choose to become an organ donor, it’s illegal to use their organs even for life-saving operations. Everyone deserves the right to choose what to do with their body, under all circumstances, and the government should not be in a position to regulate that.

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