If you want fewer abortions, keep Planned Parenthood open

Pat Kelly Contributed photo by Asheville portrait photographer Julie McMillan of Silver Birch Studio Photography


Planned Parenthood is an organization people either love or hate. Like many of the other women in my Asheville book club, I’m pro-choice. Yet we were alarmed by the tone of this summer’s shocking Center for Medical Progress videos, which purport to show Planned Parenthood affiliates illegally profiting from selling tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers, among other things.

Alarm, of course, is exactly what the videos were meant to provoke, bolstering a push to defund the nonprofit.

Investigations by various state and federal agencies have found no evidence of wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part; nonetheless, political maneuvering in both houses of Congress continues to wield the threat of shutting down Planned Parenthood.

At the same time, however, those of us who’ve long supported the organization are starting to see some good come out of this ugly mess: public dialogue emphasizing that reproductive health decisions are personal and complex, and that we have a long way to go in preventing unintended pregnancies.

In Western North Carolina and elsewhere, Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of services for both men and women, including birth control, screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, and other forms of preventive care. These services are funded by Medicaid. Abortion services — which account for just 3 percent of the health care the organization provides — are privately funded. That’s because, despite women’s legal right to safe abortions, federal legislation prohibits using federal funds to pay for abortions.

And if Planned Parenthood does close its doors, the people in Asheville and WNC who will be the most hurt are precisely the ones who most need the sex education the organization provides. These are the folks who have the least voice in our community — young and low-income women, women of color, minority women — and they don’t have the same access to reproductive health and abortion services that middle-class and wealthy women have. Without Planned Parenthood, they’ll have a much harder time finding those services, which have helped protect the health of low-income children and families during the economic downturn.

According to NC Child’s 2013 Child Health County Data Card, Buncombe County children have experienced improvement in several key health areas where Planned Parenthood provides services, including insurance coverage, teen pregnancy and even high school graduation rates.

The members of my book club also work, learn and volunteer at MANNA FoodBank, Children First, Communities in Schools and dozens of schools, nonprofit day care centers and churches. They read to kids, coach after-school sports teams, help people navigate insurance forms, teach cooking classes and Bible study. They make space in their rich, full lives and their beautiful and tastefully decorated homes for local teenagers, children, women and families that are struggling. They know firsthand the price women pay when they can’t take care of their children and when they’re facing an unintended pregnancy.

Buncombe County has one of the highest child poverty rates in the U.S. Just imagine how much worse things would be without Planned Parenthood and the many other local agencies and volunteers that are working to keep us from sliding even further down the rankings. In other states, blocking Planned Parenthood funding has increased unplanned pregnancies and other public health problems.

Contraception remains the best anti-abortion, poverty-prevention tool we have. Addressing the situation into which children are born needs to be a key component in our fight against poverty in Asheville and across the country.

One thing both sides on the abortion issue can agree on is that we must improve knowledge and attitudes about preventing unintended pregnancies so women can make better-informed decisions. One approach would be to direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs to use Title X moneys to pay for educating women — particularly low-income women between the ages of 15 and 30 — about the safety, effectiveness and convenience of long-acting, reversible contraceptives. If the current controversy sparks that kind of action, it could help end the polarized deadlock over measures to improve women’s health.

Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican presidential race, could have distinguished herself in the second GOP debate by standing up for women and offering fair, evidence-based solutions, instead of twisting the issue of women’s health to boost her brand-building ambitions.

Ironically, however, by making reproductive justice an election issue, those videos and their proponents may wind up helping keep the doors open at Planned Parenthood. This will result in fewer abortions, better health care for women and reduced child poverty.


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20 thoughts on “If you want fewer abortions, keep Planned Parenthood open

  1. OneWhoKnows

    there are over 8,000 womens health clinics in Amerikkka that cater to: WOMEN ! they don’t NEED to go to PP for
    screenings UNLESS they go there for an abortion… BUT DO keep abortion LEGAL for all democrackkks to keep the future
    voter rolls trimmed to a minimum!

  2. The Real World

    Pat – very well stated and I concur with all of it.

    I served as a Board Member of Planned Parenthood for 6 years in a nearby state. What I learned and experienced during that time lines up with the information you provide here. Specifically this, “Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of services for both men and women, including birth control, screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, and other forms of preventive care.”

    That is THE PURPOSE AND MISSION of that organization; to PREVENT unwanted pregnancies. What they spend the vast majority of their time and effort doing is educating people about their bodies and forms of birth control so they can make informed decisions. Then the appropriate method for preventing pregnancy can be provided to the individual.

    Too, too, too many people buy into what the television feeds them and do not think or check facts for themselves. It’s a problem.

  3. That Guy

    I have used Planned Parenthood for its STD testing services and consider it to be an invaluable part of the community. But, the right wingnuts view anything involving sex as a moral issue. They view it as an enabling organization for sinners, as if the mere existence of it is leading the pure to a life of lust. They are using abortion as their hot bed issue, since they know it motivates their base. This article very clearly articulates why we need Planned Parenthood, and how it actually prevents abortions. I wish people would be as pragmatic about sex and birth control as they are in acquiring a flat screen TV. They’d quickly realize it’s a helluva good deal for society! Thanks for the insights, it gives me ammo next time I’m debating the issue.

  4. James

    The founders of planned parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a unapologetic racist and anti-Semite who advocated abortion and artificial birth control to control the black population – her words, not mine! The claim that if it weren’t for planned parenthood, “poor minority women” would not have a choice for healthcare. Bull! First of all, planned parenthood does not provide mammograms – they provide referrals. Poor women can easily get mammograms, cancer screenings and if they must, free condoms at their local public health clinic. planned parenthood exists for abortions – that’s where they make their money and every year, planned parenthood kills tens of thousands of black children in the womb. On to more current events, everyone needs to watch those undercover videos. They are not faked – not one bit. These videos shouldn’t even be necessary – improvements to the sonogram make it more than clear that what is created in the womb between an egg and a sperm is a child – a child with a face, fingers, toes, limbs, a brain and a heart. In some of those planned parenthood videos, we clearly see those children being dismembered outside the womb so their body parts can be illegally sold for profit for junk science research. What’s happening at planned parenthood is pure evil and there is no excuse for it. Every person with a heart needs to watch these videos, research the history of planned parenthood and come to the realization that this is a death mill and not a source for women’s healthcare. This evil organization does not deserve one cent of taxpayer funding. A nation that kills its children is a nation without a future.

    • Pat Kelly

      James, you may not be aware that the leaders of the Civil Rights movement – Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King – were both strong supporters of Planned Parenthood. Rosa Parks served on Planned Parenthood’s board and Martin Luther King Jr., was a vocal advocate of family planning services, and accepted the inaugural Margaret Sanger award from Planned Parenthood, praising Sanger as a kindred spirit.

      King said of Sanger –

      “There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist – a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions.”

      jus’ sayin’

      • James

        “We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” – Margaret Sanger from ‘Woman, Morality, and Birth Control’, page 12, 1922.

        “I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan… I saw through the door dim figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses… I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak… In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.” – Margaret Sanger from page 366 of her book, ‘An Autobiography.’

        “We should apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of the population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.” – Margaret Sanger from ‘Woman and the New Race’, chapter 6.

        “Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.” – Margaret Sanger from ‘America Needs a Code for Babies”, 27th of March, 1934.

        Jus’ sayin’

        • The Real World

          James – what a ridiculous road to travel. You could spend the rest of your life tearing apart people from the past, as they are such easy targets. They can’t clarify themselves.

          The world evolves, James, as it always has. Do you not realize that people as soon as 20 years from now will reflect on ideas, policies and beliefs of our time with the same disdain you are displaying? It’s the epitome of arrogance.

          You make yourself appear the fool.

          • James

            Sanger’s words speak for herself. In none of her writings did she evolve into a civil rights hero. Sanger’s legacy is over 50 million aborted children and millions of mentally and physically scarred women. Likewise, the undercover planned parenthood videos speak for themselves. The people who work there are heartless people who are killing children inside the womb and are eagerly harvesting their body parts for illegal profit. That scene of the abortionist munching on her salad and sipping her wine while enthusiastically talking about how she could “crush above” and “crush below” to get at central body organs might as well have been Dr. Mengele from Auschwitz.

    • That Guy

      Did you even read the article? If more people were educated on birth control they wouldn’t have to seek an abortion! People will have sex no matter what you want, closing down Planned Parenthood won’t change that. Just love how you site the horrific videos, do you have a similar argument against war? Against guns in America? Plenty of videos showing the effects of both. If not, you are nothing but a hypocrite.

      • James

        So basically you’re for killing babies in the womb but against war and guns that kill outside the womb? And you call me a hypocrite? Go watch the undercover planned parenthood videos.

        • That Guy

          No, I’m opposed to all unnecessary death. Abortions can be drastically reduced with more education and with birth control. Wars and guns are mega industries of death, yet we tolerate both. Don’t get the logic of those that say life is sacred, yet are all for guns and war!

  5. UninformedSwingVoter

    From an economic perspective, it’s cheaper to pay for abortions than state-funded child support, medical care, public education, jails, police, etc.

    Does it make it morally right? No, but my wallet sure thanks planned parenthood.

  6. Pat Kelly

    Margaret Sanger’s legacy was written not by her own hand but by Martin Luther King, who offered deep insight and thoughtful consideration of the morality of family planning and abortion.

    “She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. … Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her. Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern.”

    • OneWhoKnows

      So MLK knew that allowing fewer negroes meant better existence for the remaining ones, right ? is that what he meant ? never heard that before…interesting…

  7. c

    Forced surrogacy by the state is against freedom and is Un-American. To base an anti choice stance off of a religious belief, and to make it illegal for said belief is also un-American. It should also be acknowledged that these constitutional principles protect those who wish to excersise their said religious beliefs as well. Don’t try to undermine a principle that also affords you protection as well. Welcome to the U.S.A.

  8. It is MUNICIPAL government like the City of Asheville that can break the deadlock on Planned Parenthood funding. The feds are hopeless and should be shut down by gridlock anyway, so I hope neither side blinks. Then it will be obvious that it is up to CITY government, with their preponderance of urban prochoice voters to provide the political will, to provide nationwide and even global funding through the World Council of Mayors. Planned Parenthood has build up such a culture of dependency on the feds that they can’t seem to bother even to ask the City of Asheville to replace lost federal funding. Even though such funding would save the city huge quantities of school tax.

  9. Lulz

    But, but the left slow marriage rates and a culture of women enslaved to jobs. Women don’t need no man according to left wing feminist. So why do you want their money?

  10. Meredith Eugene Hunt

    Just think about the title of this commentary for a moment: “If you want fewer abortions, keep Planned Parenthood open.”

    First, though Planned Parenthood and other groups manipulated politicians and the law to make killing innocent human beings “legal,” no one is talking about closing down this criminal organization. They should be. However, the current efforts are to withdraw Planned Parenthood’s federal grants and make them, as an agency that murders pre-natal children, ineligible for receiving Medicaid reimbursements. The other part of this effort is to redirect federal funds to other health centers, public and private, that do not abort children. So, whatever “good” Planned Parenthood does, will continue somewhere else.

    And I seriously doubt the abortion component of Planned Parenthood will close down. It’s separately funded, right?

    Second, let’s shed a little light on the concept about how to “reduce abortions.” The title above is much like Nazi sympathizers saying, “If you want the SS to murder fewer Jews, keep funding the SS condom distribution program in the ghettos.”

    The real issue here is the nature of abortion, who does it, what it does, and to whom. The Center for Medical Progress videos show Planned Parenthood’s and its collaborators’ shocking, callous disregard for violence perpetrated against boys and girls in the womb. Don’t get sucked into the over-played Planned Parenthood propaganda. Watch the videos.

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