Defunding Planned Parenthood Could Be Costly

By Becca Andrews, News Staff Writer – randrew1@unca.edu

With government shutdown an imminent possibility, the House passed a bill in September to defund Planned Parenthood.

The bill, called the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 (HR 3134), passed in the House with a 241-187 vote and will be considered by the Senate soon. It would take away federal funding for one year, according to Congress.

The bill’s passage was assisted by an activist video claiming to show Planned Parenthood breaking federal law by selling fetal tissue for profit. The one-year moratorium would allow for investigation of their practices, Republicans argued.

“It’s completely absurd, and the one created this summer have been proven already to be fabricated,” said Paige Johnson, vice president of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in Chapel Hill. “At the congressional hearing, they’ve had to issue a report saying that there is no evidence that Planned Parenthood has broken any laws.”

Women sign a consent form prior to the procedure, which includes agreeing to giving blood or tissue to research. Fetal tissue has been used in research for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and cancer. Fetal tissue donations to medical programs are common in Washington State, California and Oregon, Johnson said.

The bill defunds health clinics unless they certify that they will cease performing abortions during that year’s time, according to Congress. Marcia Ghidina, an associate professor of sociology, said she disagrees with this policy.

“It just seems punitive, we don’t like abortions so we’re going to wipe out the funding,” Ghidina said, “when the aftereffects of that could be more unplanned pregnancies and then more need for abortion. There could be more children born who have to go up for adoption.”

Some of the bill’s supporters say Planned Parenthood profits off of the procedure. Tax dollars should not be funding it, according to Susan B. Anthony List, an organization for pro-life women. They believe that Planned Parenthood lacks regulation and women have other options for testing, contraception and general care.

Planned Parenthood receives an estimated $450 million in annual funds from the government. Medicaid provides $390 million, less than $1 million comes from the Children’s Health Institution Program and Medicare, and the remainder comes from the National Family Planning Program under Title X, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates $235 million will be saved if the bill passes, but the number depends heavily on what Planned Parenthood patients would do. If they use Medicaid coverage elsewhere, the amount saved would decrease. There is also a possibility that Planned Parenthood would replace the funding with nonfederal sources.

“We’ve never rolled back our education programs. We will continue to fund education programs,” Johnson said. “We will find organizations that step up and support the work that we do. We’re not going to stop providing our effective programs.”

Johnson said an attempt at defunding in North Carolina happened in 2011, but the court ruled in their favor.

Amy Lanou, chair and associate professor of health and wellness, said she sees flaws with the reasoning behind the bill.

“It’s so short-sighted. We aren’t willing as a culture to sufficiently fund single parents with children whether they wanted them or not. If we’re not willing to fund birth control and we’re not willing to fund abortions and we’re not willing to fund parents who don’t have enough money to support themselves and their children, to me those pieces don’t fit together,” Lanou said. “We’ve got to go one way or the other. We either have to fund birth control, or abortions, or babies. My preference would be all three.”

Lanou said she also supports Planned Parenthood because of their support of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Planned Parenthood can provide hormone therapy for those who are transitioning. In her own experience as a queer-identified person, Lanou said she thinks Planned Parenthood provides more considerate care for those who are queer-identified, compared to privately-owned clinics.

“When I was in Washington D.C., I went to a large medical clinic there just for a yearly Pap smear and exam. They asked me three questions, ‘Are you sexually active, yes, are you using birth control, no, do you want to be pregnant, no.’ And they didn’t ask anything else,” Lanou said. “I’m just like, ‘All right, three red flags, not a single one of them followed up on. No attention paid to the needs of people who might be sexually active who aren’t in the realm of worried about pregnancy prevention.’ They didn’t even ask about sexually transmitted disease or safer sex.”

Planned Parenthood offers mostly preventive care, in the form of birth control methods and sex education. Johnson said two programs are offered in North Carolina, with 96 percent effectiveness. One, in Wilmington, focuses on helping teen moms finish high school before having a second child. The other, in Fayetteville, is a primary prevention program that provides education on abstinence, birth control, STDs and effective communication.

Ghidina said she thinks the bill against Planned Parenthood is representative of how the government has become largely ideological.

“A lot of the public isn’t very informed,” Ghidina said. “Ideology rules politics more than any reasonable assessment and negotiation about what the common good is.”

Lanou, who teaches a health and sexuality class, said the legislation has a lot to do with a general fear of reproductive processes.

“Think about all of the jokes and sort of paranoia around menstrual cycles, or with pregnancy,” Lanou said. “There’s a fear of the power of it and what’s seen as unpredictability and emotionality.”

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