The Fight for Funding

With a wide smile, Megan Kuehner rests on the large black couch filling the living room, thankful that as a woman she has options to protect her reproductive rights, at least for the moment.  Kuehner, a junior at University of Maryland College Park, is honest about the reasons she relies on Planned Parenthood as her source of birth control medication. She fears decreased or nonexistent funding for the organization, because of some political opposition regarding the abortion services Planned Parenthood offers, may curtail her personal choices about reproduction.

“When I turned 18 I knew that I wanted to be on birth control, but I wanted to make the choice for myself,” says Kuehner, 20, nonchalantly tossing her long brunette hair to the left side. “It was a personal decision that I didn’t want my parents to be involved in. I did the research and made an educated, adult decision.”

Kuehner is grateful for the low cost services and products that Planned Parenthood provides so that she is able to afford her birth control pill, Microgestin, without depending on her parents insurance to cover the cost. However, the recent Federal budget debate regarding how to solve the accumulated 14 trillion dollar deficit and conflict for the government funding an organization that provides abortions has Kuehner worried that the help she recives from Planned Parenthood may have an expiration date.  Democrats, in support of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, have classified the resistance as a “war on women” making it difficult for women to get the protection they need from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Planned Parenthood began as a birth control clinic in 1916, facing challenges but also securing victories ever since. One of the first successes came in 1936 when, according to a PBS Timeline on “The Pill,” “The American Medical Association officially recognizes birth control as a part of a doctor’s medical practice.” The history of Planned Parenthood foreshadows the contests to come, but not without a fight. Planned Parenthood continues to increase its global presence with more than 800 clinics across the United States and services available in 12 other countries, providing affordable birth control to nearly two and a half million patients, yet only 291,000 abortions annually. Largely due to Planned Parenthood’s advocacy, women have gained the right to personal reproductive choices and Planned Parenthood has become a prominent educational resource for women and men regarding sexual health care.

Now, Planned Parenthood is worried that their progressive actions may hit a roadblock due to the proposal of eliminated funding by the recent House budget bill. Elise Foley with the Huffington Post reports on February 19, 2011, “The measure would prevent the organization from receiving any federal funding because it performs abortions – even though using government money for abortions is already illegal.” Americans, Kuehner included, worry that this funding cut will impose on their freedom to receive affordable birth control they have difficulty getting elsewhere.

Megan Kuehner, who frequents the Planned Parenthood in Frederick Country, Maryland pays only three dollars per month for her birth control – something she will have to pay upwards of $20.00 for if she has to rely on her parents insurance – not to mention giving up the freedom to make her own decision about her reproductive rights as an adult. Cutting funding for Planned Parenthood will not only impact abortions, but also will detrimentally impact pregnancy prevention methods that are currently easily obtainable for women of all incomes.

The money that Planned Parenthood receives from federal funding cannot be used towards abortions by law, thus eliminating funding for an organization that pioneers women’s rights is harmful to women who rely on Planned Parenthood for affordable sexual health services. The proposed budget cut for Planned Parenthood increases the possibility for a lack of continued pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection prevention for women. This is not just a fight against funding for Planned Parenthood; it is a war on women.

Ending funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization dedicated to helping women, is unacceptable. Women rely on the services provided by Planned Parenthood and are able to keep themselves safe in part because of the organization. The government cannot expect women to protect themselves if they do not have the necessary means available. The focus of this budget battle must shift from penny pinching in the wrong places to protecting the health of women in our country.

Kaela Gedda