why is planned parenthood such a lightning rod?

For a number of years, I worked with Planned Parenthood. My main job was to answer teens’ sex questions on the organization’s website.

Most of the questions were earnest, but some were downright hostile.

Amidst inquiries about how to use a condom or put in a tampon, I’d get the occasional, “WHY DOES PLANNED PARENTHOOD KILL BABIES???? YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!!!!”

Of course, Planned Parenthood does not kill babies, but one of the many things that some of its health centers do is provide abortions. Because Planned Parenthood is the most famous organization to offer such a service, it attracts a lot of hate mail from those opposed to allowing women this reproductive choice.

I was reminded how deeply anti-Planned Parenthood feelings run while reading a recent article on sex education in Alaska (a hot topic since Sarah Palin stepped onto the scene).

The article was talking about the efforts of a college student to get more funding for sex education. It mentioned that “University of Alaska Anchorage junior Amber Sawyer heads a group called Vox, Voices for Planned Parenthood. It is circulating a Planned Parenthood petition that has collected 1,100 names since late August.”

It was a pretty harmless reference that wasn’t central to the article. Still, it managed to elicit a passionate response from one reader who left this as a comment:

“It always comes back to Planned Parenthood ,the company that stands to profit greatly off of unplanned pregnancies, pushing their agenda of teaching kids its OK just use a condom. It disgusts me that this company gets involved with pushing there agenda and making a mockery of those that tell their kids abstinence is the best form of birth control. It is obvious that teaching alternative forms of sex ed benefits Planned Parenthood. The only sure method to prevent unwanted pregnancies is abstinence and that will not make them a dime.”

The claim that Planned Parenthood encourages teen pregnancy to line its pockets is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Planned Parenthood, a not-for-profit agency, is more likely to cover the costs for health care than it is to run laughing to the bank.

Unfortunately, it’s not only random commenters who twist the truth when attacking this organization. Recently John Weaver, a strategist for John McCain’s presidential campaign called Planned Parenthood “one of the most radical pro-abortion groups in the country.”

Wanting to keep abortion safe, legal and accessible is not the same as being “radically pro-abortion.” (What does that even mean?)

Weaver’s comment reinforced the idea that the only thing Planned Parenthood does is provide abortions. This is obviously incorrect. The president of Planned Parenthood responded to Weaver’s statement by clarifying exactly what Planned Parenthood does:

“Ninety seven percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are focused on prevention, including family planning, contraception, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Three percent of Planned Parenthood services are abortion care.”

This is important information. It is also important to realize that:

  • Planned Parenthood tries to prevent unplanned pregnancies and hopes that every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy.
  • As a non-profit organization, they do not benefit financially from teen pregnancies. In fact, they tend to offer heavily subsidized health services that young women can afford.
  • Not all Planned Parenthood health centers even provide abortions. Many just offer gynecological and pre- and post-natal care.

In its ninety year history, Planned Parenthood has helped countless women facing reproductive health challenges. The fact that it is constantly attacked is a sad sign that this country has a long way to go towards accepting the importance and scope of women’s health needs.

What is your impression of Planned Parenthood? Have you had any personal experiences with them?

Photo provided by clockworknate

Posted in: Health, Sex & Relationships, The State of Sex Ed
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