Planned Parenthood is an invaluable resource

Governor Scott Walker’s uninspiring presidential run may have come to an end, but the backwards policies of his administration remain a fixture in Wisconsin. The state’s Legislature recently introduced two bills that aim to dismantle Planned Parenthood by cutting its federal funding. The latest attempt by Wisconsin Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood in the state discards medical data and research in favor of political anecdotes and inconsistent moral arguments. For almost 80 years, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has been a vital non-profit resource to women and men across the country. Wisconsinites are no exception– according to its records, Planned Parenthood serves 60,000 of them each year, most of whom rely on the organization as their primary care provider. Some people may think, in light of recent news events, that Planned Parenthood is a sinister organization with an exclusive purpose to dispense birth control and perform abortions. This notion couldn’t be further from the truth. While Planned Parenthood provides both of those services, it’s only a small aspect of the organization’s activities. Planned Parenthood provides an abundance of free medical information and advice. Many locations even offer screenings for diseases like anemia and diabetes as well as vaccines for tetanus and the flu. Because its services are free through Medicaid, Planned Parenthood is an important public resource for both sexual and general health. Despite Planned Parenthood’s humanitarian intentions, many conservative politicians frequently use it as a target, pandering to their religious voter base and endlessly resurrecting a debate that was settled 42 years ago. This isn’t the first time Walker and his mostly male band of Republicans have interfered with women’s health in Wisconsin. Since he took office in 2011, Walker has made a point to target Planned Parenthood and its supporters. He has passed 12 policies that impede important health care services to Wisconsinites, two of which are currently being litigated for their unconstitutionality. Because Planned Parenthood relies heavily on state and federal funding, Walker’s previous political attacks have resulted in the closing of five Wisconsin clinics, most recently the Fond du Lac location. If the legislature’s latest bills reach Walker’s desk, more closings are bound to follow, potentially leaving thousands more without care. Regional field coordinator for Planned Parenthood’s Oshkosh clinic, Koby Schellenger, said many people who support defunding Planned Parenthood personally oppose the use of birth control, which many of its patients use to prevent unwanted pregnancy and abortions. “Poll after poll has concluded that the public overwhelmingly supports Planned Parenthood and the essential reproductive health care it provides, and has no appetite for a fight over defunding the organization,” Schellenger said. Schellenger said students should contact their legislature with their concerns because the bills are being moved through quickly. “These bills are being fast-tracked in both the state Assembly and state Senate,” Schellenger said. “There is a public hearing [on Tuesday] in the Senate and one of the bills will be voted on Thursday in the Assembly. We expect these to continue to move very quickly.” Schellenger went on to say that there is a serious accessibility problem in the state pointing to a 2013 study by the Guttmacher Institute, which states that the current women’s health network can only support about 87,000 of the 336,000 Wisconsin women who need affordable reproductive care. “Despite the level of unmet need, the study credits publicly funded family planning centers like Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin with helping to avert over 21,000 pregnancies in 2013, which would have likely resulted in 7,200 abortions,” Schellenger said. “By reducing unintended pregnancies and other negative reproductive outcomes, these providers helped save the state and federal governments $171.5 million each year.” Still, some politicians and media outlets continue to make outlandish claims about Planned Parenthood. Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina claims she viewed a video depicting “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’” Not only is Fiorina’s claim preposterous, it’s utterly false. Such a video does not exist, not even in the debunked Planned Parenthood “sting” videos released this summer by the anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress. Several news outlets have described CMP videos as misleading and fabricated. Even the White House has called them fraudulent. The CMP is currently facing two lawsuits for using fake identification and creating a fake biomedical company to secretly film Planned Parenthood interactions. The fetal tissue that Planned Parenthood does donate for medical research is a far cry from Fiorina’s fabrication. A recent Time magazine article by Alice Park explains how vital fetal tissue is to medical research. “The National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on fetal research in 2014, and fetal tissue has contributed to vaccines for polio, rubella and chickenpox,” Park said. “While recent efforts to transplant fetal tissue to treat conditions like Parkinson’s haven’t been as consistently successful, it’s still critical to scientific progress.” The kicking and screaming of the Republican party on even the most logical of social issues is shameful and counterproductive. The no-compromise style of some of its party members on the far right should not be mistaken for strong and principled, but rather shortsighted and childlike. Those trying to deny medical care to those who need it most will continue to impose their personal beliefs and political aspirations upon others, affecting legislation, unless change is demanded both locally and nationally.