Planned Parenthood isn’t a necessary evil

Planned Parenthood, Abortion, Fetal Tissue
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Planned Parenthood has been rocked with scandal following the release of multiple videos that demonstrate that it has been profiting from the sale of fetal organs. Instead of addressing the issue directly, Planned Parenthood has undertaken a massive campaign to divert attention away from its abortion services, shouting that defunding Planned Parenthood would take away health care for women. They are lying. 

Planned Parenthood claims to have provided 500,000 breast exams in 2013. But Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide comprehensive breast cancer screenings. They offer only manual breast exams. While these exams are sufficient to get a woman in the door and bill Medicaid for an office visit, they are insufficient to detect and diagnose breast cancer. Mammograms and MRIs are much more effective at detecting breast cancer in at-risk women. The American Cancer Society recommends that women with a high risk of breast cancer get an MRI and a mammogram every year. 

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Planned Parenthood does not offer these services. Freedom of Information Act requests and the FDA’s frequently updated list of certified mammography facilities have revealed that not a single Planned Parenthood in the United States has a mammogram machine. Not one. 

Even mammograms are not always enough. Currently, 24 states require physicians to notify women when they have dense breast tissue following a mammogram, which can complicate detection of breast cancer. Some of these states require a physician inform these women that they should seek supplemental screenings beyond mammography. These supplemental screenings can include breast sonography, 3D screening, MRI, or molecular breast imaging. 74 percent of women under the age of 40 and 57 percent of women in their 50s have dense breast tissue, complicating the detection, diagnosis, and eventual treatment of breast cancer. 

My mother was one of these women. The supplemental screening saved her life and detected her cancer just as it became aggressive. But does Planned Parenthood offer these life-saving breast cancer screenings? No. 

Planned Parenthood is perpetually outraged at any restriction on abortion that requires more than one trip for the procedure, including waiting periods and sonogram requirements. They protest that underprivileged women can’t afford to take off work and burdened with multiple trips. But Planned Parenthood’s procedure for comprehensive breast exams requires women to undergo at least two visits, to at least two different providers, carrying surprise costs—all after a woman was promised comprehensive health care at Planned Parenthood. An at-risk woman needs a mammogram, not an office visit Planned Parenthood can bill and then a mammogram elsewhere. 

Breast cancer hurts women. Approximately 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and over 40,000 women in the United States are expected to die in 2015 from breast cancer. Comprehensive breast care is basic health care. Planned Parenthood’s manual exams cannot diagnose breast cancer. But they can be billed. Planned Parenthood apparently does not care that its blatant misrepresentations deprive women of vital health care. 

Across the country, a multitude of health care providers provide low-cost and Medicaid-eligible basic women’s health care, including mammograms and other breast imaging, well-woman visits, and routine primary care that Planned Parenthood also doesn’t offer. These include community health centers and federally qualified health centers, among others. 

Women can do without Planned Parenthood. Almost all of them already do. Planned Parenthood is not needed for basic women’s health care. In legislation pending before the U.S. Senate, funding for Planned Parenthood would be immediately suspended and redirected to “other eligible entities to provide women’s health care services,” including state and local health departments, federally qualified health centers, and other women’s health care providers. This redirected funding would go to provide the very care that Planned Parenthood alleges women will lose if they are defunded. 

It has become clear that Planned Parenthood does not truly care about the health of women. If it did, it would not deprive underprivileged women of critical care. It’s time that we stop buying Planned Parenthood’s lies, and it’s time that we defund Planned Parenthood once and for all.

Graves is litigation counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and its Center for Life, which is currently litigating anti-fraud lawsuits against two Planned Parenthood affiliates that have been the subject of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress.