Women’s Reproductive Rights

Abstract

In recent discussions involving Planned Parenthood, a controversial issue has been whether the government should fund or defund the organization. On the one hand, some argue that Planned Parenthood is mainly an organization created for performing abortions. On the other hand, however, others argue that Planned Parenthood is an important resource that provides various health care services such as cervical cancer screenings, checkups, mammograms, and contraceptives to lower-income women who do not have access to these services. In the words of Karen DeCrow, one of this view’s proponents, “Planned Parenthood is the most important private provider of reproductive healthcare for women in the United States.” According to this view, Planned Parenthood has a right to operate and provide women with some of their basic healthcare needs.

My own view is that Planned Parenthood should be funded by the government. Though I concede that religion plays a strong role in our society and influences individuals’ beliefs, I still maintain that Planned Parenthood is a beneficial organization for men and women. For example, Planned Parenthood provides cancer screening services and with early detection it can save many lives. A large number of women are at risk for various health problems, and one of the main cause for this is because of their socioeconomic status and the delay of appropriate treatment. Although some might object that Planned Parenthood has insidious motives, or the organization is misappropriating funding, I would reply that most of the opponents have not been denied their basic rights to choose what is best for them, or they have the resources necessary for their well-being. The issue is important because this is not only about contraceptives, abortions or money, this is an issue of women’s rights and their right to choose what is best for their health.

 

At the age of 27, Colleen discovered a lump in her breast but she was unable to visit a private physician due to the overwhelming cost of medical care. Colleen did not have any family previous members diagnosed with cancer, which led her to disregard her discovery. However, Colleen realized that Planned Parenthood offers free breast exams to lower income women, and after a visit at her local clinic, she learned that she was diagnosed with invasive stage 2 breast cancer. After her diagnosis, Planned Parenthood informed Colleen that she has many options to prevent cancer from growing. Colleen stated that she took the necessary steps such as “chemotherapy, radiation, a lumpectomy, and five years of hormone treatment” in order to prevent cancer from growing.

In 1916, Margaret Sanger, along with her sister, Ethel Byrne and Fania Mindell established the earliest birth control clinic in the United States. The debate on abortions was amplified in 1973 with Roe v. Wade when the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional and that a woman has a right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Planned Parenthood v. Danforth was an abortion case in 1973, requiring the parental consent and spousal notice for abortion procedures, which is similar to Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, was an another attempt to restrict abortions by adding provisions such as informed consent, parental consent, spousal notice, “Medical Emergency” definition and Reporting Requirements.  The United State Supreme Court upheld four of the provisions except for Spousal Notice. Despite what many people believe about Planned Parenthood, over the last 100 years, the organization has continuously overcome many challenges and advocated women’s reproductive rights. The government should fund Planned Parenthood because it provides various services to millions lower income individuals.

In many countries, women are often denied their reproductive rights. One of the reason is because of the strong influence of religion. There are many conservatives who believe that organizations such as Planned Parenthood are destroying the conservative belief that women are not allowed to be sexually liberated. Many religious groups believe that Planned Parenthood will encourage young people to have more sex and participate in risky behaviors. In the article, “Anti-Abortion Groups Target Funding of Planned Parenthood,” Sharmila Devi reports of the various strategies used by anti-abortion groups of terminating the Planned Parenthood organization. Devi discusses the heavily falsified and graphic video, released by David Daleiden, the leader of the anti-abortion group, Center for Medical Progress (CMP), claims that Planned Parenthood is conducting illegal acts, altering abortions and selling fetal tissue for profits. Center for Medical Progress, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Charlotte Lozier Institute claim that if Planned Parenthood was defunded, there are health centers that are able to provide services to lower-income women. Most of these pro-life activists and anti-abortion groups are often driven by their religious beliefs that the termination of a pregnancy is a crime against God’s creation.

People who are in support of defunding Planned Parenthood use religion as an excuse to put limits on women’s rights. Pro-life activists have the right to exercise their beliefs. However, some of these groups have refused to protest in peace, instead, they exercise their right by planning various dangerous attacks on Planned Parenthood, as well as verbally attacking the organization’s employees. In response to these anti-abortion groups, Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University argue that the situation would be dire if there are millions of women will have to wait or travel to other states in order to receive care. Rosenbaum claims that most health centers are currently unable to provide medical assistance to many communities, and it would be nearly impossible to provide care for these women if there is an abrupt change. Devi reminds the reader that even though President Obama has stated that defunding Planned Parenthood would be a federal violation, the organization is currently restricted from using federal funds to perform any future abortion procedures.

Although politicians or the government do not have the authority to speak on behalf of women, politics has always had a role in Planned Parenthood and the issue of women’s reproductive rights Pro-life politicians have vigorously attempted to shut down Planned Parenthood over the last 100 years, they’re the only argument was that the organization is solely responsible for performing abortions. Representative Kathy Castor, Democrat of Florida stated that House Republicans are attempting to pass a bill “to inflame the passions that are based on false videos, distorted clips, that was part of a coordinated smear campaign all across the country, is being used as a foundation to close the government.” Representative Castor believes that the actions taken by the Republican Congress are vastly impacting women’s health care. Speaker John A. Boehner stated that “those who would deny the weakest among us the right to life are on the wrong side of history.” However, denying women their right to make choices regarding their bodies is a major setback for future generations (Herszenhorn, 2015). One of Planned Parenthood’s spokesman, Eric Ferrero stated that this bill was another way for politicians to take control of women’s right to health. The majority of the Democratic party agree that Planned Parenthood helps many men and women, which they are able to do because of their various services. Democrats in favor of Planned Parenthood are attacking the organization is an excuse to “limit a woman’s reproductive choice.” Aside from personal beliefs, most of the politicians against Planned Parenthood are mainly focused on the use of taxpayers’ money used to help lower income men and women (Herszenhorn, 2015).

There are many reasons why an organization such as Planned Parenthood is crucial for millions of Americans. However, the role of conservative Republicans and pro-life groups have made it challenging for Planned Parenthood to safely provide care to men and women. In the article, “A Bad Year For Reproductive Rights,” published in The New York Times, members of the Editorial Board review the significant role politics played in 2015 regarding the issue of women’s reproductive rights. The Editorial Board reports that there were 57 new constraints on women’s rights to abortion and the possibility of more constraints that inevitably rise in 2016. The Board discusses the TRAP laws, known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers and the effect has on women across several states with strict anti-abortion views. These laws have forced many abortion clinics to restrict their services forcing women to seek out help from other states. Due to these laws and restrictions on women’s rights to choose, there is an increase in the possibility that many women will attempt to terminate a pregnancy without any medical help or knowledge. In many states where these are incredibly strict, termination of a pregnancy, women may face charges for attempted murder.

The authors provide results from a survey that “estimated that 100,000 to 240,000 Texas women ages 18 to 49 have attempted a self-induced abortion without medical assistance.” The results from the study show that these women most likely lack basic resources such as contraceptives most likely due to financial needs. The authors claim that Arizona and Arkansas “passed laws requiring doctors to give women misleading information about the possibility of “reversing” a medication-induced abortion.” The authors assert that even though “modern, evidence-based drug protocol for medication abortion” is more effective and inexpensive, Arkansas has banned this method to be practiced in many clinics. These laws should be overruled not only because of their effects on women’s health but also because politicians do not have the authority to deny women the right to make decisions regarding their bodies.

In the journal article, “Planned Parenthood At Risk,” from the New England Journal of Medicine, George P. Topulos, M.D., Michael F. Greene, M.D., and Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D., report that Planned Parenthood is under attack by anti-abortion groups. The article was released in September 2015 when a fabricated video surfaced showing the organization’s misuse of fetal tissue donations. Topulos et al. acknowledge Planned Parenthood for following ethical guidelines and support the utilization of fetal tissue that was donated by women in order to medical purposes. In 2013, data collected from Planned Parenthood show that the organization “provided services to 2.7 million women, men, and young people during 4.6 million health center visits. At least 60% of these patients benefited from public health coverage programs such as the nation’s family-planning program (Title X) and Medicaid. At least 78% of these patients lived with incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.” The authors report that Planned Parenthood has provided some of the essential services such as “400,000 Pap tests, nearly 500,000 breast examinations, nearly 4.5 million tests for sexually transmitted illnesses (including HIV), and treatments” to their patients.

Planned Parenthood was established because Margaret Sanger’s believed in providing women with a safe environment for receiving proper health care. In the journal article, “Planned Parenthood And The Next Generation Of Feminist Activists,” Dawn Laguens argue that despite the belief that millennials are not as active in important causes such as the feminist movement or their thoughts on abortion rights, the younger generation is more involved than many people believe. Planned Parenthood has played  a significant role in the lives of many young women, as well as the negative effects that would transpire due to defunding Planned Parenthood. The problem is not that millennials have a limited understanding of these issues but the it is the poor method of communication. Laguens reports that in 2011, “state legislatures nearly tripled the previous record of provisions restricting abortion” which is the sum of one hundred and thirty-five. Laguens claims that in mid-2012, “states enacted thirty-nine new provisions that restrict a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion.” In some states, prior to an abortion, the mandatory ultrasound laws which are in place to require physicians to perform an ultrasound and deliver information that is not based on science. Due to these restrictions, it is crucial that the younger generation understand the seriousness of these issues in order to move forward and “deliver on the promise of Roe v. Wade, the promise of equity and equality that generations of women have fought for, the promise of a world where women make their own decisions and have full access to healthcare, no matter who they are or where they live.” Society should strengthen these feminists beliefs and allow the younger generation to fully grasp the issues surrounding women’s rights instead of denying them the right to make their own choices.

It is imperative that women are thoroughly educated on the resources that are available to them and necessary for their overall well-being. In the medical journal article, “Ethical Issues Relating To Reproduction Control And Women’s Health,” from the International Journal of Gynecology And Obstetrics, J. G. Schenker and  V. H. Eisenberg emphasize the importance of women’s reproductive rights. Schenker and Eisenberg praise the development of various methods of contraception and insist on the positive impact they have on women’s health such as lowering the risk of sexually transmitted disease, endometrial and ovarian cancer. The pro-life belief of a fetus as a “patient” denounces women’s autonomy. Schenker and Eisenberg advocate that women have the right to abortion, their basic health care needs and they are free to make their own choices for which they should not be condemned by society.

The debate over women’s health rights has been an issue for many years. However, religion and politics managed to have a significant impact on women’s rights for thousands of years. Women had to struggle for many years for their basic rights but gloriously succeeded in accomplishing many of their goals and with hard work, they acquired their rights to equality. One of the current women’s rights issue is the proposal to end the funding for Planned Parenthood and shut down all of the organization’s clinics around the United States. Planned Parenthood is the main source for millions of lower-income people where they can receive their basic health care without the worry of excessive debt. If Planned Parenthood clinics were terminated, it would negatively impact millions of men and women.

Planned Parenthood is often misunderstood because pro-life activists have instilled the idea that the organization is solely responsible for performing abortion procedures. The pro-life groups have continuously attacked, falsified information and created intricate lies in order to shut down Planned Parenthood. However, these attempts to end Planned Parenthood are not new, these attacks have persisted since the organization was established in 1916. Planned Parenthood provides various services such as cancer screening, contraception, and treatments for many sexually transmitted diseases. These services not only benefit women, but they also provide services to men and families in general.

If Planned Parenthood was defunded because political and religious influence, the government should contemplate the negative effect it would have on future generations. The government should continue to fund Planned Parenthood because the organization’s mission is to help men and women. Denying these health care rights is considered to be “war on women” which not only affects women today but the next generation of strong, independent girls across the globe. It has been Eleven years since Colleen was diagnosed with invasive stage 2 breast cancer but because she was able to receive a breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood, she is able to live a healthy lifestyle and encourage women to take care of their bodies, and not to limit their health care needs due to financial difficulties. Women are constantly oppressed by society due to their gender and the belief that the primary role of women is to procreate. In many cases, the topic of abortion is whether the procedure should be legal or illegal, but the law should not be involved in women’s health. The government should fund Planned Parenthood because the organization’s primary mission is to help millions of lower-income men and women, and society as a whole should encourage women’s autonomy and protect their basic human rights.

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Image via http://rosierespect.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/6952046495_96ab69e6da_o-584×396.jpg

References

Devi, S. (2015). Anti-abortion groups target funding of planned parenthood. The Lancet, 386(9997), 941. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00113-0

Herszenhorn, D. M. (2015, September 28). House Republicans vote to stop funding planned parenthood. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/19/us/planned-parenthood-government-funding.html?_r=1

Laguens, D. (2013). Planned parenthood and the next generation of feminist activists. Feminist Studies, 39(1), 187-191.

Schenker, J. G., & Eisenberg, V. H. (1997). Ethical issues relating to reproduction control and women’s health. International Journal Of Gynecology And Obstetrics, 58(1), 167-176.

The Editorial Board (2015, December 19). A Bad Year For Reproductive Rights: [Editorial]. The New York Times, p. 10.

Topulos, M.D., G. P., Greene, M.D., M. F., & Drazen, M.D., J. M. (2015). Planned parenthood at risk. New England Journal of Medicine, 373(10), 963. doi:10.1056/NEJMe1510281

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