by Rachel Perkins, R.N.
I am not a political activist. I am not marcher, a picketer, or a “sit down to stand up” kind of woman. What I am is a mother, a wife, and a registered nurse who just happens to be a Federal employee. At the onset of the most recent budget crisis, my initial reaction to the whole saga was that it was typical DC dramatics. As the crisis progressed, and the media fueled, high noon mentality of impending government closure felt imminent, I gave more attention to the issues surrounding the problem. The buzz around Planned Parenthood seemed to be a central topic of dissent- and the nurse in me took notice.
My knowledge about Planned Parenthood was previously limited to their role in birth control and abortion services. During our recent Federal budget crisis, the media insinuated that the stalled talks were part of a right wing, social agenda intent on holding the US Government hostage to anti-abortion activists. It’s true that Planned Parenthood does offer abortion services and education, but according to a recent Annual Report (2009), abortion care/education consumes only 3% of their total spending. 3% is a far cry from the figures that various legislators were citing during the heated budget debates. The majority of their funds and efforts are dedicated to disease prevention and cancer screening for individuals who are underinsured or uninsured, and who have extremely limited socioeconomic options in terms of reproductive health. Planned Parenthood provides much needed access to services that would otherwise be unavailable to many women AND men.
I am not a proponent of abortion, but as we consider the big picture in terms of the total services offered by Planned Parenthood, I would seriously suspect that they save more lives than they are guilty of taking. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, states “the fact is that 97 percent of the health care Planned Parenthood provides is preventive, and every federal dollar Planned Parenthood receives goes toward providing preventive health care to women” (2011). Thousands of women are empowered by the education they receive through these services to take control of their own reproductive health. Breast exams and cervical cancer screenings save countless lives by detecting problems early-when treatment can be most effective. If these services are reduced, the consequences could be devastating. A recent meta-analysis reviewed the effectiveness of various methods aimed at increasing cervical cancer screening among low income, ethnic minority women. Among all interventions, including health promotion and education, social networking and peer group leaders- the most significant factor in early detection of cervical cancer was access to care (Han, et.al., 2010). Should Planned Parenthood lose funding, this access would likely dwindle.
Women are not the only recipients of care. Men are also seen for testicular exams, erectile dysfunction and STD prevention and treatment. Young adults who may be struggling with sexuality or gender issues may benefit from Planned Parenthood counselors as they deal with psychological distress and confusion. The services offered address the mental and physical health of thousands of people.
Federal funds do not pay for abortion services. Federal funds pay for preventative health and screening services. Abortion is a terrible thing, but any human suffering is terrible. As a Registered Nurse, it is my duty to alleviate suffering and advocate for those in need of care. As Congress continues to debate the ethics of this particular organization, I would urge them to do the same.
Han, H., Kim, J., Lee, J., Hedlin, H., Song, H., Song, Y. & Kim, M. (2010). Interventions that increase use of Pap tests among ethnic minority women: A meta-analysis. Psycho-Oncology, 20(4), 341-351. DOI: 10.1002/pon.1754
Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (2009). 2008-2009 Annual Report. Retrieved from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/PPFA/PPFA_Annual_Report_08-09-FINAL-12-10-10.pdf Richardson, C. (2011).
Statement by Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, on upcoming senate vote to take away cancer screenings and birth control from American women. Retrieved from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/statement-cecile-richardsplanned-parenthood-federation-america-upcoming-senate-vote-36707.htm
Rachel Perkins is a Clarke County resident and has been a registered nurse since 2002. She is currently pursuing her master of science degree from the University of Arkansas and hopes to graduate in 2012.