Planned Parenthood and Women’s Health: What Now?

In the realm of women’s rights, particularly the institution of Planned Parenthood, America has witnessed months of “all talk and no action.” Finally, the action has occurred: on Thursday, April 13, 2017, President Trump quietly signed the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of women’s healthcare. Taking into consideration the views of the Trump administration regarding women’s issues, the move was inevitable, and I am honestly not surprised. However, my lack of surprise certainly does not lessen the critical setback for the health of millions of women dependent upon Planned Parenthood whose future is now in greater danger than ever before.

From the beginning of the Trump administration there have been intensive efforts to curb funding for women’s healthcare, particularly pertaining to abortion. In the first few days of his administration Trump signed an executive order – one of many – that called for reinstatement of the Mexico City policy, which blocks U.S. funding from reaching any NGO (non-governmental organization) worldwide that performs abortion counseling. The key word here is “counseling,” as it is likely that those banned organizations do not even perform abortion services. Also known as the global gag rule, the policy was initially imposed by President Reagan in 1984. The Trump administration’s reinstatement of a policy from the previous century is indicative of the current state of women’s healthcare in America.

At first read, the news of defunding appears to be quite broad in scope, and with the nuances of public policy we know there has got to be more to the story than just a slash in funds sanctioned by the Trump-run national government. Additionally, Trump’s bill, in conservative fashion, provides states with the power to block Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from receiving federal funds, which, understandably, has been hailed as a victory for states’ rights.

The planned defunding of Planned Parenthood, as well as the reinstatement of a Reagan-era policy, is a slap in the face to the Obama administration and its attempts to keep women’s healthcare in the national conversation. In the final days of the Obama presidency, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented a rule that effectively banned local and state governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services. The rule was wide-ranging: extending to areas such as sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and contraception, among others. The regulation also forbade states and localities from withholding money from a provider for any reason other than inability to provide family planning services.

However, the Obama administration and the premium it placed on women’s healthcare now seem like faraway fantasies rather than regulations that existed mere months ago. The exit of President Obama ushered in a new era of Republican dominance, which at its core contained a desire to restrict Planned Parenthood, which is now the defining symbol of women’s healthcare services, and, interestingly, abortion.

Planned Parenthood is not only a national symbol for women’s healthcare services, but it is also largely, and somewhat mistakenly, recognized for its abortion services, despite the fact that a trifling 3% of services rendered by Planned Parenthood are related to abortion. Furthermore, nearly half of clinics do not even perform abortions, and largely focus on general healthcare, such as cancer screenings. It may surprise some to discover that Planned Parenthood’s resources actually attempt to prevent abortions as much as possible, or to only turn to them as a final resort.

It may also surprise you to discover that Trump signed the bill without media present. I mean, that’s quite antithetical to the Trump that America has been forced to get accustomed to. However, thanks to the power of the information age there will inevitably be backlash to the step backwards in women’s healthcare, and even in general care. Who can argue that preventative measures such as cancer screenings are detrimental to the health of a great nation? The saying “easier said than done” is certainly applicable to the current state of affairs. Furthermore, allow me to remind you of the motto that has guided Planned Parenthood, and will undoubtedly guide women’s rights advocates:

“Care. No matter what.”

This article was written by Karen Guan. Click here to see more of Karen’s work.