Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cuts to Planned Parenthood unwarranted

There is a lot of talk going on about defunding Planned Parenthood. Conservative lawmakers both in Washington and all across the country want to end federal grants given to the organization because it performs abortions for women who want them.

However, the federal grants in question are specifically tailored so that they don’t actually fund abortion procedures – they give Planned Parenthood money based on other projects, such as dispensing contraceptives to lower-income individuals or health screenings for those that can’t afford them. In fact, the vast majority of services Planned Parenthood performs aren’t abortions at all but rather programs and services dedicated to maintaining the good health and well-being of women and men (less than three percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides are abortion-related).

But conservatives maintain that any funding given to Planned Parenthood is helping women pay for abortion services. The costs, they say, offset, making it easier for the organization to perform all of the services they provide, including abortion.

Under that rationale, however, a ton of other services contracted out by federal or local governments would also have to be ended. Faith-based initiatives, where religious organizations are granted government money to perform a service (such as an alcohol recovery program run by a Pentecostal church or a youth group in the community sponsored by a nearby religious organization) are perfectly acceptable forms of government handouts, so long as they don’t require participants to convert or perform some form of religious duty. These are taxpayer dollars that are going to religious organizations – but under the same rationale that conservatives are trying to run with, the funding of these programs are offset by government assistance for specific initiatives. Should these religious organizations be refused these funds because of this? Of course not.

Very few people accept the idea of their tax dollars funding abortions; likewise, very few people accept the idea of tax dollars going towards religious causes as well. But when the government funds a program to assist people – whether that’s testing for STI’s or keeping at-risk youth off the streets – people generally support those aims and ideals. The government should continue to contract out responsibilities that cater to poor families in need of health services, and it should continue to use Planned Parenthood to reach that end.

The government shouldn’t fund any abortion services, but it shouldn’t prevent lower-income women the opportunity to have themselves tested for STI’s (over 4 million every year), STD’s (over 6 million), or receive other services that Planned Parenthood provides.

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