After the tragic Colorado Springs shooting in November last year, the non-profit organisation Planned Parenthood has repeatedly made the headlines. As university students, many of the services offered by Planned Parenthood are relevant to our well-being. Students across the country will be using the UK equivalent of Planned Parenthood to get access to birth control or seek advice about illness.
In the run up to the presidential election in the USA, Planned Parenthood is once again involved in controversy over whether or not the government should continue fund its services in the new term.
In a country which only recently adopted a form of affordable health care (thanks Obama), Planned Parenthood is the USA’s largest health care provider to low-income women. It offers a range of services including but aren’t limited to: birth-control access, abortions, cancer screenings and STI testing and treatments. The American organisation and its global equivalents offering similar services have sparked debate amongst politicians, activist groups and celebrities.
The violence surrounding Planned Parenthood’s services is becoming known as the modern “war on women” and is ultimately an assault on women’s reproductive rights. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood receives a lot of bad press from pro-life groups and in media stories which focus purely on the organisation’s abortion services.
this is an organisation that protects women not just against pregnancy but from life threatening illnesses
Pro-life or pro-choice, it is important to remember that this is an organisation that offers a range of services to protect women not just against pregnancy but from life threatening illnesses.
Planned Parenthood is continuing to make headlines at the beginning of 2016. In her recent interview with Glamour magazine, Jennifer Lawrence has come forward to voice her support of the organisation, joining a number of other celebrities including Scarlett Johansson, Laverne Cox and Amy Schumer. Prompted by the news of the shooting, the normally playful actress put all jokes aside and said, “It’s so awful. It isn’t an attack on abortions; it’s an attack on women.” She stresses that clinics offer so much more than just abortion services posing the question “What harm comes from supplying people with birth control, condoms, Pap smears, and cancer screenings?”
Lawrence goes on to explain the importance of accessible birth control for young people. “My mom was really religious with me when I was young. I wouldn’t have been able to get birth control if it weren’t for Planned [Parenthood]. I wouldn’t have been able to get condoms and birth control and all these things I needed as a normal teenager who was growing up in a Jesus house.”
About 70% of all students that drop out of education do so because of early or unwanted pregnancy. Furthermore, the dropout rates of pregnant teens in the US alone is 90%; bear in mind that the US is a country that offers birth control and abortion services, so the dropout figure will be even higher for less developed countries. Planned Parenthood and the NHS offer free or heavily discounted birth control that has the potential to reduce this figure. Jennifer Lawrence recognises that birth control offers women the chance at a more successful career and a more secure lifestyle in the future. The actress ends her Glamour interview by crediting Planned Parenthood, “Now I am a successful woman who has not had a pregnancy.”
Whilst there are advocates for the cause, the war on Planned Parenthood’s services continues to be prominent in government. Arguably the most controversial figure at the moment, Donald Trump has compared the non-profit organisation to a multinational business, describing it as an “abortion factory.” Besides the usual nonsensical nature of his statement, the big issue here is that, once again, Trump focuses purely on the abortion service of a brand that offers loads of other potentially life-saving treatments.
Shamefully, the attacks on women visiting sexual health clinics have been on the rise in the UK
Of course, pro-life groups deserve and retain their right to express anti-abortion opinions respectfully. However, women that are pro-choice should equally be allowed to seek medical help and exercise their reproductive rights safely and free from danger, harassment and violence.
Whichever side you take, pro-life or pro-choice, the fact is this – seeking medical help with birth control, STIs or abortion is the individual woman’s decision. Forcing this decision away from the individual woman, especially if done with violence, is not only an archaic act, but also an assaultive one.