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Planned Parenthood’s Uncertain Future

What proposed funding cuts could mean for BU students

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Should BU students be worried that federal funding of Planned Parenthood and other family planning agencies is dangling by a thread?

David McBride, director of Student Health Services, thinks so. “Student Health Services and Planned Parenthood complement one another,” he says, “providing many of the same services. SHS, however, does not do pregnancy termination. I think that the attack on this funding is an attack on women’s reproductive rights. BU women and men should be very concerned about this.”

By “this,” McBride means last week’s 240 to 185 vote in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to eliminate all federal funding for the family planning and reproductive health group Planned Parenthood. In another measure the following day, the House voted to eliminate Title X, the federally funded national family planning program that has been in place since 1970.

The Planned Parenthood bill is considered unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate, which could vote on it as early as today. President Obama has vowed to veto the bill if it comes to his desk.

In any case, the two House measures have ignited a firestorm between conservatives—who contend Planned Parenthood should not receive federal funding because its clinics perform abortions—and supporters, who point out that Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using federal funds for abortions. Rather than pay for abortions, they say, the federal dollars received by the organization fund services such as birth control, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings. Supporters argue that without the federal funds, health care, particularly for low-income women, will not only suffer, but the lack of planning will lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies, and consequently, in abortions.

Planned Parenthood says that the proposal would stop 48 percent of the agency’s three million patients it sees each year from receiving health care. The organization’s clinics offer a sliding scale fee, based on income, and spokesmen say that abortions make up only 3 percent of the services it provides.

Danielle Roncari, a family planning fellow at Boston Medical Center and a School of Public Health obstetrics and gynecology instructor, says the proponents of the bill are using women’s health care as a pawn in the budget game.

“It’s unfortunate and a little scary that this measure got passed in the House,” says Roncari. “It’s one of many bills, including some at the state and national health care level, aimed at women’s health care in general. The way Planned Parenthood works now, the federal money they receive does not go towards abortions. Rather, the proposed cuts would affect their services that have to do with well-woman care in general.”

Not everyone at BU is opposed to the proposed cuts. Among the supporters is Elise Kulik (CAS’11), president of the BU pro-life group Right to Life. “Although Planned Parenthood offers some excellent services, such as STD testing and treatment, and educates people, they are the nation’s largest abortion provider,” Kulik says. “We do not think federal dollars should be spent on such a huge violation of human rights.”

For BU students, the elimination of Planned Parenthood clinics would affect the convenience and cost of some health care services. There are several Planned Parenthood clinics in the greater Boston area, including one just off campus, at 1055 Commonwealth Ave. The clinics accept most private and public insurance plans, and besides their income-based sliding fee scale, in many cases they provide discounted or free services. A one-month supply of birth control at Planned Parenthood, for example, is $30, but can cost more than $50 elsewhere if an insurance program doesn’t cover it.

Sasha Goodfriend (CAS’14), the outreach coordinator for BU’s VOX: Voices for Choices, a student-run pro-choice organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood, says many BU students depend on the family planning and reproductive health group. “Even if most students aren’t sexually active or pregnant now,” she says, “if they ever decide they want to be in the future, this will directly affect them.”

Group president Gabrielle Newton (CAS’14) articulates the larger social issues. “We believe that women’s reproductive health services should be available to all women regardless of their socioeconomic status, and that all women should have the freedom to choose to make their own reproductive decisions and not be limited by how much money they have,” she says. “The bottom line is, if this bill is passed, only women who can afford not to be on Medicaid will have the opportunity to choose what happens to their bodies. This means that many American men and women will not have access to the sexual health services that they need.”

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

18 Comments

18 Comments on Planned Parenthood’s Uncertain Future

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 7:25 am

    I agree whole-heartedly with David McBride. This IS an assault on women’s “reproductive rights.” Frankly, I don’t understand why I can’t an abortion on campus. Can someone explain to me why BU SHS is violating my rights? How can David McBride be a party to this?

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 8:23 am

    What accepts me about this article is a lack of articulating the other side of the coin; money needs to be cut from somewhere, and people would be upset no matter where these cuts came from. Republicans aren’t doing this because they are evil people. We’ve just been living beyond our means for too long, and our chickens have come home to roost. This goes just beyond social issues and is a fact that most things should be cut. And they can’t afford to just stop here.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 9:06 am

    @What_accepts_me

    Your post feels like punchlines from the Glen Beck show. Sure, republicans aren’t evil… but they don’t seem to care that they are cutting the only resources regarding contraception and education for low income families. If no cuts can be made without sparing these two, raise taxes!

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 9:22 am

    Stop Feeding the Trolls

    The republicans in the house have planned to waste the next two years of national politics “energixing” their base by promoting the agenda of the religious fundamentalists. Most of the representatives don’t expect anything to change, but they know if they make th motions, their base will give them money. . . . . . this is merely a political shell game. Yes it could turn ugly, but they do it for the money. Not the issues.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 9:25 am

    In response to “What accepts me about this”: It may be true that money needs to be cut from somewhere, but it does not justify elimating 100% of federal funding to both Planned Parenthood and Title X. Many women and families rely on the array of services provided by Planned Parenthood and Title X – it is not fair to eliminate them completely.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 10:11 am

    Short sighted and counter productive

    While I completely agree that this is an assault on women’s “reproductive rights”, this decision is so short sighted it amazes me that any informed elected official could make it. I am not so nieve to think that there is really a separation or church and state in America, but decisions that effect fiscal policy should not be made based on someone’s religious beliefs (or a groups populations beliefs) esspecially when the act that is under question (abortion) is legal. What will happen when Planned Parenthood cannot provide services to the population that so obviously has no other alternatives? I would guess there will be many more unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, increases in STDs, etc. This may not be a factor today, but in 5-10 years when there are accross the board increases in disease transmission and even more people needing assistance from aid agencies (e.g. wellfare) the costs will be even higher than what they are trying to ‘save’. Decisions like this make me fear for our future.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 10:42 am

    Partisan article

    I don’t understand how BU can post such a blatantly partisan article. Despite the one quote from the president of Boston University Right to Life, the article is clearly taking sides. If instead the article supported the cuts, people would be up in arms. This university has no ties to any political party or organization, and that should be reflected in the articles it publishes.

    Also, despite what people say, this isn’t about “pissing on the poor and women,” it is about giving a child a chance to live. In the words of Mother Teresa (who I think we can all agree is good people) “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you can live as you wish.”

    Anyway… I felt that that needed to be said. Have a wonderful day ya’ll.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 11:54 am

    Biased Article

    What a blatantly biased article. Except from a tiny segment from Elise Kulik, president of the BU pro-life group Right to Life, the entire article comes from the perspective that this is somehow an attack on women’s reproductive rights. Have people totally missed how in the news certain Planned Parenthood workers have been assisting underage prostitutes get abortions? I would surely hope that the Republicans would at least investigate further why our money is going to this organization. (It’s also not so clear cut how this federal money is being used at Planned Parenthood. It is impossible to avoid it being at the very least, complimentary to the abortion process.)

    Also, how is it the federal government’s responsibility to provide such services to low income families? How is that nearly close to any of the powers we delegate to our government in the constitution? I want none of my money going to any organization tied this closely to abortion. Additionally, I do not agree with many of its “sexual health” premises either. Let those who agree with Planned Parenthood donate themselves to this organization. I’d rather take my tax savings and donate money to provide good schools / better living conditions in low-income areas here and abroad.

    The federal government resisting funds tied to an abortion clinic is in no way an attack on women’s reproductive rights. The entire premise totally ignores the millions of women in this country who are pro-life and who encourage responsible sexual behavior.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 1:00 pm

    All journalism is somewhat biased so I’m not completely surprised by this article. However, it concerns me that there seems to be an overall misunderstanding of the views of not just pro-choice and pro-life advocates, but in this specific instance both PP supporters and PP opponents. From what I’ve gathered, people who support PP feel it’s an attack on affordable woman’s health care. PP offers a lot of services to women and families, and I completely agree that they deserve affordable health care. However, what many people do not realize is that many pregnancy centers, often found across or down the street from a PP clinic, offer many of the same service, with the exception of contraception and abortions, as well as baby items, counseling, and connections to practitioners and other aid. PP opponents know that PP isn’t allowed to use federal funds for abortions. However, we want to defund the organization, regardless of what specific program their tax dollars are being rationed toward, because we simply do not want to unwillingly support the largest abortion business in the nation. For this reason, PP opponents believe no amount of good justifies their practice of abortion. A few questions to consider are: Is health care really provided for women at PP? From what I’ve read, women often do not get proper counseling before and after abortions at PP and the full list of options available to them (including adoption). Do PP employees really care about women if they’re willing to cover up rapes and prostitution? What exactly does “reproductive rights” mean? I personally believe that contraception and abortion, since it prevents reproduction and discourages family planning, should not be included in the “reproductive health care” category. Therefore, the concept of “reproductive rights” does not make sense to me. Do women not have a right to reproduce? If they have a right to have a baby when they choose, should education in abstinence, chastity, and natural family planning be more of a focus than providing the “quick fix” of using contraception (which often proves faulty, leading to unwanted pregnancies and abortion…and keep in mind that PP founder Margaret Sanger actually opposed abortion)? Do babies not have a right to be born; are they not included in family health care? If PP’s goal is to make abortion rare, why haven’t the numbers gone down? There are countless more questions to consider, and I feel that PP and its supporters do a poor job of answering them.

  • In response to "I agree" on 02.28.2011 at 2:15 pm

    “This IS an assault on women’s “reproductive rights.” Frankly, I don’t understand why I can’t an abortion on campus. Can someone explain to me why BU SHS is violating my rights?”

    All I have to say is…are you serious? How is the university violating your rights by making you go off campus to get an abortion? It wouldn’t look good to many people, conservative or liberal, if the university tuition went toward funding abortions at Student Health Services.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 3:08 pm

    Not all abortions are elective

    The abortion procedure is not always an elective one. If the child terminates, resulting in a miscarriage, the fetus may still need to be removed through mechanical means. A woman who needs this procedure done is certainly not doing it because she wants an abortion – it’s because it’s a health issue.

    If federal funding is cut off from her getting a safe and cost-effective medical procedure, then shame on us.

    I have not even raised the issue of children who are conceived due to rape or incest.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 3:11 pm

    To: 02/28/2011 02:15 pm POST

    I’d like to think the post you are referring to was dripping with sarcasm. At least, I hope so.

  • Anonymous on 02.28.2011 at 3:14 pm

    To: 02/28/2011 03:08 pm POST

    Removal of a non-viable fetus is not an abortion. That would actually be a medically-necessary procedure.

  • ZB on 02.28.2011 at 6:10 pm

    "choice"

    “The bottom line is, if this bill is passed, only women who can afford not to be on Medicaid will have the opportunity to choose what happens to their bodies.” Baloney! People have the CHOICE of what to do with their bodies prior to conception.

  • Unfair Proposal on 02.28.2011 at 9:06 pm

    Unfair Proposal

    It’s absolutely ridiculous what they’re proposing, and quite frankly, the reasons for supporting the bill don’t even make sense. The primary reason for supporting the bill seems to be that people feel that federal funds should not go towards funding abortions.

    They don’t go towards that anyway. Federal funds go towards STD testing, contraception, and family advising. NOT abortion. The argument the Republicans are using doesn’t hold water.

    You can’t tell a woman she does not have the right to use contraception, or be tested for STD’s. While many people feel that others should be as sexually active as they are, the fact is, they can’t run others’ lives, and it’s not up to them to make others’ decisions. While someone may feel that they should practice abstinence- and that is an admirable and perfectly okay decision -they can’t force that opinion on others. In the same way, you can’t force people to be totally against abortions or contraception. You’re invading a person’s rights by doing so.

    Contraception (in the form of condoms and birth control) is, quite frankly, the lesser of the two evils. Contraception allows those who chose to be sexually active to practice safe sex while ensuring that they do not end the lives of babies. It allows babies to be brought in the world at the right time, and in loving homes, with more opportunities open to them.

    Also, “natural family planning” has far less of a success rate than contraception. Take my grandparents for example. They practiced natural family planning, intending not to have children for several years until they had put themselves on stable financial footing.

    The result was four children in as many years- all of whom were not planned at that time. Admittedly, my grandparents love all of them dearly, but natural family planning did not work.

    It is completely unrealistic to expect the majority of young men and women to remain chaste until marriage. It’s unfortunate, but unrealistic. Therefore, it’s best to propose both options in sexual education- a path of abstinence and also a path of safety. A person can then make their own decisions.

  • belinda on 02.28.2011 at 11:56 pm

    PLANNED PARENTHOOD

    The fed gov is funding way too many aspects of our lives, and they do a very sub par job in every case. Private practive and supply and demand will always be available, unless the Fed becomes the one and only ‘Man’, then what are peceived as women’s/men’s/and human rights will be eliminated, and there won’t be a need for arguing for them. People need to ‘man up’ and take responsibility for themselves and keep the government out of if.

  • Anonymous on 03.01.2011 at 2:53 pm

    To: 02/28/2011 03:08 pm post

    rape and incest are accountable for less than 1% of all abortions.

  • Anonymous on 03.08.2011 at 7:56 am

    Contraditcions Abound

    “…and that all women should have the freedom to choose to make their own reproductive decisions and not be limited by how much money they have…”

    And yet, apparently “Reproductive Decisions” don’t seem to include “making certain you do not become pregnant,” and if one DOES, the taxpayer is required (at least in part) to pay for it?

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