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On Planned Parenthood, Congress needs to do its homework

Facts don’t seem to count for much in Washington these days. 

Last Friday, 241 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block Planned Parenthood patients who rely on public health programs from getting preventive healthcare. Earlier in the week, a House committee became the second in as many weeks to hold a hearing on whether those patients should be able to continue seeing their doctors for birth control, well-woman exams, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. And eleven people running for the highest office in our country stood on the national stage last Wednesday and said if it were up them, those Planned Parenthood patients would be on their own to find a new healthcare provider—most in communities where that’s not an easy thing to do. 

{mosads}This circus, staged by institutions charged with governing the most powerful country in the world, is based on a set of videos recorded, deceptively edited, and released by extremist anti-abortion activists with ties to violent individuals and groups. These videos have been hyped through a strategy coordinated by ultra-conservative media, anti-abortion activists and anti-women’s health politicians. 

Lawmakers pushing to “defund” Planned Parenthood—even at the cost of shutting down the United States government—have not done their homework. They are taking the claims of extreme anti-abortion activists at their word, ignoring both wide consensus that the tapes do not show what their promoters claim and the long history of attacks against Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers by this group. 

News stories have thoroughly debunked claims made by the activists behind the videos. Editorials have denounced the group behind the videos, the politicians parroting their claims, and their ultimate goals of “defunding” Planned Parenthood and banning abortion altogether. And a forensic analysis showed the extent of the deceptive edits—including confirmation that the so-called “full footage” versions and corresponding transcripts had also been edited. Anyone can watch the longer edited versions of some of the videos and hear statements and see evidence that directly contradict the very titles of the videos.  

Politicians on their anti-women’s health crusade apparently have not. 

And it’s apparent that they don’t know the long history of similar attacks on Planned Parenthood and the people we serve—all of which have fallen apart when you scratch below the surface. 

Instead, they blindly accept what the anti-abortion machine tells them to believe, because it’s helpful for their political ambitions. Why else would they be trying so hard to stop women from coming to the most trusted reproductive health provider in the country? 

And not just any women. At least 78 percent of Planned Parenthood patients live with incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level—the equivalent of about $36,000 a year for a family of four in 2015. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood means, in large part, that patients who rely on Medicaid to reimburse providers for their care will not be able to continue coming to Planned Parenthood—the vast majority of public funding for Planned Parenthood is reimbursement for health care services we provide. 

In this effort, politicians are targeting the health and well-being of women, men and young people who need and deserve high-quality reproductive health care. 

We have been serving these women for nearly 100 years. At approximately 700 health centers across the country—more than half of them in rural or medically underserved communities—our doctors and clinicians give compassionate, nonjudgmental care to every person who walks through our doors, no matter their income, their history, or their political affiliation. One in five women in the U.S. has turned to us for care.

Politicians also ignore what medical experts are telling them: If they block our patients from coming to us, many will have nowhere else to turn. 

Our country has pressing problems to deal with. Income inequality is staggering; our immigration system is broken; black men and women are dying at the hands of the state; gun violence is rampant; the crisis in the Middle East is claiming hundreds of thousands of lives; voters are being disenfranchised by discriminatory voting laws; and there is no plan to put in place a budget that keeps the most important government in the world running. 

Rather than focusing on solving these problems, anti-abortion extremists and their allies in Congress manufactured a scandal. 

Congress needs to do its homework and stop playing political games with the lives of women.

Laguens is executive vice president of Planned Parenthood.


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