This July, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a secretly recorded video in which Planned Parenthood executives discussed providing fetal tissue to medical researchers. This video has prompted a raging debate over women’s reproductive rights and government funding of Planned Parenthood. Despite the great degree of noise about these issues, with a presidential candidate claiming that Planned Parenthood performs abortions in an effort to “control the population” and headlines screaming that Planned Parenthood kills living babies, it seems that very few people have a firm grasp of what this argument is really about. Given this neglect of the essential issues of this dispute, it may be helpful to discuss some fundamentals concerning women’s reproductive health, Planned Parenthood, and the current debate over such topics in Georgia.
What is Women’s Reproductive Health?
Before any effective conversation can be held about women’s reproductive rights, it is helpful to have a common understanding of what, exactly, we mean by “women’s reproductive health.” To put it simply, women’s reproductive health is exactly what it sounds like – it is the health and wellbeing of a woman’s reproductive system. In particular, women’s reproductive health is concerned with family planning, STI/STD prevention, screening for infections and cancers, and treatment for reproduction-related issues.
While the above-mentioned description of women’s reproductive health may sound straightforward, this topic can become quite controversial when the issues of contraception and abortion are raised. While many people believe that women have the fundamental right to control what happens to their bodies, others believe that the state should regulate or even prohibit practices like contraception and abortion. Many Georgia politicians fall into the latter category, and Georgia’s laws reflect this, with the Georgia code mandating waiting periods and parental consent provisions for abortions.
Family Planning in Georgia
There are several types of clinics that offer family planning services in Georgia. According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, the most widely used are health department clinics, followed by federally qualified health centers, hospital outpatient clinics, Planned Parenthood clinics, and other independently run clinics.
Planned Parenthood clinics only accounted for 8% of family planning clients served in Georgia in 2010. Of those 8% of Georgia women served by Planned Parenthood, only a small minority used Planned Parenthood’s abortion services. In fact, the majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are STI/STD testing and prevention, contraception services, cancer screening and prevention, and other women’s health services.
Since the release of the Planned Parenthood videos, some politicians have been attempting to defund the organization, going so far as to threaten a government shutdown. Many of these politicians may be laboring under the notion that Planned Parenthood’s abortion services are funded by the federal government. However, the truth is that the federal government is prohibited from providing funding for elective abortions – it can only fund abortions in cases involving rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. .
So if the government isn’t funding abortions when it funds Planned Parenthood, what is it funding? It’s funding those essential services, like STI/STD treatment, cancer screening, and contraception, that allow women to remain healthy and to choose when or if they will become pregnant. Basically, a cut in government funding of Planned Parenthood would only decrease its ability to ensure women’s health and to prevent unplanned pregnancies. In addition, such a funding cut would do little to fulfill the goal of Planned Parenthood’s opponents of reducing the number of abortions. In fact, cutting funding for Planned Parenthood could actually result in more abortions, not less.
Georgia’s Investigation of Planned Parenthood
In late July, the state of Georgia opened an investigation of the state’s Planned Parenthood centers. The investigation sought to find evidence of any inappropriate practices, such as the ones allegedly highlighted in the CMP videos. However, it found nothing awry. Still, many groups are calling for harsh measures to restrict or even eliminate Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.
The release of the CMP videos has initiated an unruly but necessary conversation regarding where Georgians and their legislators stand on issues regarding women’s reproductive health. In the midst of this conversation, Georgians have the opportunity to educate themselves about the intricacies of women’s health issues. As they do so, effective policies for women’s reproductive health will be advanced and will continue to benefit the women of Georgia.