op-ed

Funding Planned Parenthood Is NOT About Reproductive Rights

Cecile Richards announced in late January that she is planning to step down from her post as president of Planned the Parenthood. Richards’ reign has not been a quiet one, and her announcement was met with a media uproar. Under her leadership, the organization has found itself consistently in the center of strife and controversy. Since being named president in 2006, Richards helped grow Planned Parenthood to include a volunteer army of over 10 million, and used her political connections to cultivate a donor base of over 700,000. These efforts have only increased the profile of an already polarizing organization, and Richards’ name has come to be synonymous with “mass murderer” or “feminist warrior,” depending what side of the aisle you ask.

Similarly, supporting the funding of Planned Parenthood has come to be equated with supporting female reproductive rights, while advocating that Planned Parenthood be defunded has been painted as the equivalent of wanting to reverse Roe v. Wade. While this dichotomy is one that is easily translated into political capital and media hits, it is not necessarily accurate. For many citizens, the issue of funding Planned Parenthood is not about reproductive rights for women, and it’s not even about access to abortion. Instead, the larger issue is why the government is funding this nonprofit organization in the first place, thereby forcing taxpayers to fund practices and services that may lie in direct conflict with their religious, moral, or ethical beliefs.

At the same time as the nation learned of Richards’ planned resignation, New Jersey citizens were fighting against a governing body hoping to incorporate mandatory Planned Parenthood funding into the state’s budget. New Jersey Senate Bill 120 passed in committee on January 22nd, and was lauded by Democratic law-makers and lobbyists alike. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has gone on record saying that he intends to sign this legislation into law, effectively reversing efforts made by former Governor Chris Christie to prevent the state’s citizens from paying $7.5 million tax dollars to the nonprofit organization. Prominent lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Greg Coughlin and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, have insisted that the bill will help restore access to women’s healthcare and family planning services for thousands of New Jersey families.

Coming from a party that insists we are a country capable of successfully operating under a government-run healthcare system, this seems more than a little hypocritical. New Jersey is only one of many states operating under the reign of leadership insisting that to take away government funding from Planned Parenthood is akin to robbing women of their access to healthcare. This seems to be in direct conflict with the idea that the United States healthcare system can operate outside of the free market, and that every American citizen can access quality healthcare if only they are willing to enroll in Obamacare and allow the government to provide. Looking at these arguments, the message of these lawmakers seems unclear. As citizens, are we supposed to use our tax dollars to fund a private organization so that women can access healthcare? Or should we instead trust that by enrolling in Obamacare, or another national single-payer system, we can provide healthcare services to everyone?  It seems that while the vocal argument of liberal legislators is for centralized healthcare, their actions imply that when it comes to execution, there is a very real reliance on private entities. Could it be that by insisting that funding Planned Parenthood is the only way to connect women to accessible healthcare, these same legislators are in fact admitting that government-run options are not feasible? So far the answer seems to be yes.

Largely the result of hyped-up political rhetoric, the concept that advocates of defunding Planned Parenthood also are enemies of women is insulting and narrow-minded propaganda, resulting from a political culture that insists on bucketing citizens into the two-party system. This fails to consider that many citizens are asking why the government is so intent on funding a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and why their tax dollars should be the method used to achieve that funding. For many citizens, the idea of paying for compulsory public healthcare is not an appealing one, regardless of what sex or demographic the funded entities are targeting. While the goal of universal access to healthcare services is not a partisan one, the source of the funding for those services is a valid disagreement.

The hypocrisy of directing government funds to Planned Parenthood raises other questions about the priorities of these liberal lawmakers. If we are choosing groups to fund federally, it would seem to be more logical to fund resources for those with truly no choice as to their medical condition. Whereas STIs and pregnancy are almost always avoidable, many cancers, diabetes, and hundreds of other diseases are not. In addition to being far less controversial, government funding of cancer research, insulin provision, radiation treatments, and treatment of other diseases would have much more significant impact on society. For a party that claims to value inclusion, the Democratic emphasis on women’s healthcare subsidies seems to be one that is harshly unaware of the larger medical picture.

This is not to say that women should be denied access to healthcare resources. The United States was built on the concept of individual choice, and the ability to act freely in pursuit of your own best interest as determined by you. However, government funding for polarizing monopolies is not the way to achieve this, nor is forcing citizens to spend their money on services they will never use. Many argue that without government funding, Planned Parenthood would be unable to continue providing life-saving services like STI screenings for thousands of women who could not otherwise afford it. While lack of government funding would certainly alter Planned Parenthood’s budget, the US is known globally as the most philanthropic nation on the planet. As of 2016 there were 1,571,056 registered non-profit organizations in the U.S., the vast majority of which operate on privately donated funds. Considering this and the vast number of Planned Parenthood donors, it seems unlikely that lack of government funding would force this organization to close its doors.

Much like the citizens of New Jersey, hundreds of thousands of Americans are opposed to a government that wants to decide how to spend our money for us. Despite the fact that Planned Parenthood has been a poignant political talking point for well over a decade, we are overlooking the opportunity to allow citizens to decide for themselves what is in their collective best interest. By eliminating taxpayer funding, we can allow for everyone to stay within their moral bounds, for women to seek the healthcare that they deem best for them, and for supporters of Planned Parenthood to demonstrate their support via donation.

Our society should move toward a scenario in which everyone has power over their own healthcare and philanthropic choices. We should move away from the big-government nanny state that we find ourselves facing today.

Rachel Tripp writes about liberty from Washington, D.C.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.