By Sarah Jost
For 95 years, the non-profit orginisation Planned Parenthood has provided health and educational services to women in America. One in five women in American has utilized Planned Parenthood’s health care services at least once, 3 million Americans visit Planned Parenthood a year, and 1.2 million teens and adults participate in their educational programs every year. As of 2011, the federal poverty level is $22,350 total yearly income for a family of four. 75% of Planned Parenthood’s patients have annual incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level ($33, 525.) For many of these women, Planned Parenthood is a vital source of health care.
On Tuesday, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, the world’s leading breast cancer charity, announced that it will pull its approximately $700,000 a year in funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings, education, and access to affordable mammograms. Komen foundation senior vice president for public policy Karen Handel, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate from Georgia who ran on a platform that would defund Planned Parenthood in the state, has said that being ‘pro-life, [she does] not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,’ despite the fact that the funding from the Komen foundation was used solely for breast cancer resources.
With almost 800 health centers across America, Planned Parenthood conducts approximately 830,000 breast exams a year, along with a myriad of other health care services. Abortions only account for 3% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. For women, Planned Parenthood offers breast cancer screenings, pelvic exams, pap tests, HPV tests, and resources and treatments for female infertility, menopause, urinary tract infections, menstruation, ovarian cancer, yeast infections, vaginitis, and cervical cancer. For men, Planned Parenthood provides checkups for reproductive or sexual health problems, screenings for colon, testicular, and prostate cancers, male infertility, and erectile dysfunction, testing/exams and treatment for jock itch, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, urinary tract infections, and routine physicals.
Planned Parenthood provides information and access to over 20 birth control options, from abstinence to condoms to pills, and works with women to decide the best option for them. According to Planned Parenthood, these services prevent approximately 612,000 unintended pregnancies and 291,000 abortions a year. For pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant, they offer resources for pre-pregnancy health, pregnancy tests, prenatal care, miscarriages, infertility, and more. To ensure the health of the sexually active, Planned Parenthood provides information and resources for safe sex and STD testing and treatment.
Regardless of the political or religious affiliation of an organisation or individual, every woman deserves access to health care. In a country whose policies still seem to reflect the belief that healthcare is a privilege and not a right, it is unfortunately not surprising that there are people who support the Komen foundation’s defunding of an organisation that provides access to breast health for hundreds of thousands of low income women every year.
Women’s health can be a sensitive topic. Some women, especially those without insurance or sufficient income, don’t know where to turn. This was the case for me three years ago when I moved to a new state, was not yet receiving insurance from my employer despite working full time, and needed a pap test. I had no idea where to go and was terrified about how much it would cost. I almost just gave up, hoping there was nothing wrong that couldn’t wait until I could afford insurance. Then I remembered Planned Parenthood. Thanks to them, I was able to have my pap test on time and pay a lower rate based on my current income. They also offered payment plans for those who needed them.
At a time when 2,000 teenagers in the U.S. get pregnant every day, 1 in every 4 teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease, and over 2 million women in America are living with breast cancer, ceasing to fund an organisation that is working to improve all of those facets of women’s health seems not only absurd but cruel. Where will the women who have relied on the Komen foundation’s donation to Planned Parenthood for their breast health go?
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he will match every donation made to the Planned Parenthood Breast Health Fund (up to a total of $250,000.) Petitions to the Komen foundation asking them to reconsider their decision can be found here and here.