Planned Parenthood Needs You. Again.

Being a vagina owner and operator these days is getting increasingly scary.

Mar 27, 2014 at 4:30pm | Leave a comment

Remember how Congress tried to defund Planned Parenthood three years ago and we all flipped out? Yeah, well, about that. As all eyes are on the Supreme Court and Hobby Lobby this week (seriously though, who even goes to Hobby Lobby anymore?), Kansas just quietly got legal approval to defund Planned Parenthood. Effective immediately.

Basically, Kansas tried to pass a law allocating Title X funds (those used for reproductive health services up to -- but not including -- abortion) to public health facilities and hospitals first, leaving nothing for Planned Parenthood. The law effectively cut the organization out of Title X funds, which it needs to provide safe, low-cost, judgmental health services to women. Keep in mind that even when Planned Parenthood gets those funds, it can't use them to perform abortions. 

The law very clearly targeted Planned Parenthood, and was also very clearly about punishing the organization for providing patients with information about all their options, including abortion. It neatly ignored the fact that Planned Parenthood also provides needed health support for pregnant patients and those who plan to become so, and works with people to screen for and treat conditions like cervical cancer. Funds spent at Planned Parenthood generate a huge future savings, because they're all about preventative care. 

Planned Parenthood fought back, taking the matter to court, and it's been snarled there for three years -- the law passed at the same time Congress was trying to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. One might almost think it was a trend or something. It's not the only state where the venerable family planning organization has been deprived of the federal funding that helps it do its vital work. 

Which, contrary to what the right would have you believe, is not actually abortion. Well, not entirely, at any rate. In fact, according to Planned Parenthood, 9,000 Kansas residents accessed contraceptive services through their clinics last year, while another 8,000 people received testing and treatment for STIs. Furthermore, almost 3,000 patients were screened for cervical cancer. That's a whole lot of health care services for low-income patients who might not have been able to access treatment otherwise. 

Why don't you see abortion on that list? Because two of the three (THREE!) Planned Parenthood clinics in the state don't even offer it. The one that does can't use federal funds for abortions, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, which has barred abortions (except in cases of incest or rape) with public funds since 1976. 

Arizona and Indiana have both tried to pass similar laws, and this isn't the end of the road for Planned Parenthood in Kansas. The lower court can reconsider the matter, and another appeal is still an option. Meanwhile, though, Planned Parenthood is caught in legal wrangling without the funding it needs, and it could use fiscal support from pro-choice folks across the nation who want to help Kansans access reproductive health services. For those who don't have funds, there are other ways to provide support -- like writing legislators, or just sending a friendly note to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri

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Photo: S. MiRK, Flickr.

Have a little extra to give? Consider donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which fights laws just like this one while also providing financial assistance to patients in immediate need. The organization strikes that fine and much-needed balance of working towards a better world tomorrow, which acknowledging that the world we live in today isn't going away by magic. 

When we talk about a war on reproductive rights (particularly those of women, who are especially hard-hit by laws like this), this is what we are talking about. There are so many simultaneous attacks on women that it's hard to know where to look, and where to begin when it comes to resisting. Do we start in the Supreme Court, where Hobby Lobby is defending its "right" to refuse contraceptive funding to employees?  In Kansas and other states trying to defund Planned Parenthood in a piecemeal fashion? With a proposed Kansas bill that would compel the reporting of all miscarriages, not just stillbirths?

Being a vagina owner and operator these days is getting increasingly scary, and while we keep saying this, it just keeps getting worse. The government stranglehold over our private parts is nothing short of terrifying, as we enter a world of bizarre and byzantine legislation all designed to give other people ultimate control over our bodies and our autonomy. Kansas wants low-income residents to suffer rather than having access to basic health care, and it's not alone. 

It's also not alone in the desire to creep into fetal personhood with laws mandating miscarriage reporting and effectively criminalizing miscarriages. Or in the persecution, harassment, and criminalization of pregnant women on the basis of choices made during pregnancy

Some might say that we live in a nanny state, and it feels increasingly true for women and those read as women by the rest of society; for we are patronized, legislated against, monitored and stalked by a society that thinks of us as property. The growing push towards criminalization of almost every aspect of our lives is something everyone should fear, and the fact that the right seems to be, at times, winning is even more troubling. 

While things are better than they were pre-Roe, it is still getting extremely hard to access a safe, legal abortion in the United States. 87% of US counties do not have abortion providers. 87%. TRAP laws are closing in on abortion across the US. We are returning to a world where safe abortion is only accessible to those who have the wealth and social access to reach it, which is a repulsive thought. Illegal abortion isn't a thing of the past, and dangerous abortionists are rising to fill the gap created by the falling number of abortion providers. 

Is this the world we want, America?