by Delphine Burns
Across campus, students discussed articles they had just read about the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood. Other students organized events to show support for the organization. Some changed their Facebook profile picture to a pink Planned Parenthood logo to demonstrate solidarity. Whether by scrolling down social media, subscribing to news apps, or simply picking up a newspaper, many students have been following, or have at least heard of the congressional controversy on the topic of Planned Parenthood.
Some members of congress, mainly Republicans, became outraged earlier this year when it was circulated that Planned Parenthood was allegedly selling fetal tissue from abortion services performed in the clinic. Sale of fetal tissue is illegal, and CEO of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, has rejected the validity of this claim. Even so, many members of the Pro-Life Community are still skeptical of the organization, and want its funding cut. Many members of this community have wanted this funding cut for a long time. This had some serious implications for congress, and the United States government as a whole.
Two years ago, the first government shutdown since 1996 occurred because congress could not agree to fund the Affordable Care Act. Government employees deemed “non-essential” were forced to leave their jobs, go home, and receive no compensation from the government. Employees deemed “essential” continued working indefinitely, but with uncertainty about the timeliness of their next paycheck. Recently, there were threats of this happening again, this time because congress could not agree to fund Planned Parenthood.
On the afternoon of Wed., Sept. 30, congress narrowly met the deadline of allocating funds by approving a short-term spending bill to avert the crisis of another shutdown. The funds were set to run out at midnight when Oct. 1 began. This spending bill will fund federal agencies through mid-December, so it is indeed temporary. In this bill, there is no language currently defunding Planned Parenthood, but as it is temporary, and funding must be renewed annually anyway, this hardly marks the end of this debate.
Among advocates of Planned Parenthood, some support the organization because they recognize the wide range of healthcare services offered besides abortion services.
“There are very few places in this country where you can get access to free healthcare services,” junior Chance Kawar said. “One of the most critical things that Planned Parenthood does is provide services free of charge to individuals who otherwise could not afford them. If we want to build a stronger, healthier society, it is important that we make sure all people, regardless of their socioeconomic situation, have access to things like cancer screenings, contraceptives, STD testing, and family planning services. These are all things the Planned Parenthood provides.”
One argument for continuing allocation of funds to Planned Parenthood is the organization’s wide variety of services and resources. Planned Parenthood does not only provide abortion services, but also provides sexual education resources, affordable contraceptives and STI screenings, and other affordable reproductive healthcare services. Although many extreme conservatives tend to paint Planned Parenthood as simply an abortion clinic, it is far more than that, and many clinics across the country do not even provide abortion services.
Additionally, some support Planned Parenthood because they not only support these services, but also believe in a woman’s right to choose.
“I don’t understand why so many responses to the Planned Parenthood controversy have been ‘Well, only two percent of their business actually has to do with abortions’ or ‘no public money goes to the abortions; all they do is provide information.’ Abortions are legal and needed,” first year Dana Nothnagel said. “Why are we so defensive about this? In addition, stem cell research is a wonderful thing that has the potential to save millions of lives. I would be proud if my tax dollars and my unborn fetus, with my consent, went toward furthering this cutting-edge science.”
To some students, it is also viewed as a polarizing political issue. “This is just another unfortunate example of the Republican Party using women’s healthcare as a wedge issue to rile up the radical right-wing base,” junior Chance Kawar said. “Rather than attempting to defund a program that provides valuable resources to lower-income individuals, I would much prefer for Congress to be focusing on ways to alleviate poverty, strengthen social safety nets, and reform our nation’s education system.”
Others see the issue as dangerous, and oppressive toward woman, particularly of low socioeconomic status.
“Without Planned Parenthood women will not only lose important resources like cancer screening and rape crisis counseling, but those who do need abortions will be forced to go underground where there is no guarantee of sanitary equipment, trained professionals or safety,” sophomore Emily Wolfram said.
Regardless of their reasoning, many students at the Claremont Colleges are outraged by the government shutdown that nearly occurred, are in support of this organization, and find it an important federal program to continue funding.