Opinion

Why pro-choice feminists should want Planned Parenthood to be defunded

Shamara Riley Contributor

There has been a lot of debate lately over whether Planned Parenthood should continue being underwritten by American taxpayers. Last week’s budget deal negotiations even stalled over its $360-million-a-year federal subsidy, which comprises 34 percent of its annual budget.

While pro-life activists often argue that Planned Parenthood should be defunded, one rarely hears pro-choice feminist perspectives regarding why Planned Parenthood’s subsidy — de facto corporate welfare, given that Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar non-profit — should end. While I disagree with social conservatives about Planned Parenthood, they are correct that Planned Parenthood shouldn’t get federal funds. My issue is not with Planned Parenthood, but rather with government involvement in Planned Parenthood’s activities.

There are three key reasons why Planned Parenthood shouldn’t receive taxpayer subsidies. Defunding Planned Parenthood would only reduce our $1.3 trillion federal deficit by 0.024%. However, the fundamental question ought to be: is funding Planned Parenthood (or any other organization) the proper, constitutional role of the federal government? It is not.

Libertarian feminists believe in equal treatment for women, but we don’t believe that some people have the right to rifle through other people’s wallets to pay for their pet causes (even causes that we support). We believe that funding an organization such as Planned Parenthood properly belongs in the private sector.

Liberal feminists argue that the “general welfare” clause in Article I, Section VIII of our Constitution covers activities such as funding Planned Parenthood. However, James Madison, the principal author of the U.S. Constitution, stated that the “general welfare” clause is limited to the delineated powers specified in the Constitution.

Another reason why Planned Parenthood should be defunded is that strings come attached to government involvement. Federal subsidies come with reduced independence and more government oversight into Planned Parenthood’s affairs.

Lastly, too many pro-choice advocates push responsibility for life choices from individuals to America as a whole. It needs to return to individuals, where it belongs. We pro-choice advocates can’t simultaneously say that government has no business getting involved in a woman’s reproductive health choices (right to privacy) and demand that everyone pay for said choices (government handouts). It’s contradictory, and undermines our moral high ground on reproductive health issues.

Millions of American taxpayers shouldn’t be compelled to have their hard-earned money used to pay for things that they morally oppose (for the record, I favor a choice-based taxation system so anti-military liberals also wouldn’t have to fund this activity if they so choose).

I can hear other pro-choice supporters saying right now, “But how will needy women get their reproductive health care services? Women will die on America’s streets!” This is where the role of private charity comes into the picture. Just like charities that don’t rely upon government largesse to keep them afloat, Planned Parenthood would subsequently have to convince the American people of its value (and I agree that it has value) to encourage us to donate.

If we pro-choicers believe that reproductive health for needy women is an important issue, then we should pool our resources and fund it out of our own pockets. A recent Pew Research Center poll shows that 54 percent of Americans believe abortion should remain legal in most cases. While Planned Parenthood’s federal subsidy doesn’t fund abortions, this is a good proxy demonstrating that millions of Americans are potential donors to replace the defunding shortfall. Planned Parenthood currently receives $206 million a year in private donations. In fact, online donations to Planned Parenthood have already shot up 500 percent during this defunding brouhaha. Clearly, there is a willingness among the American people to privately fund Planned Parenthood because of its value.

Genuine pro-choice advocates favor both a woman’s right to choose and individual choice — not government confiscation — to decide whether to fund or not fund Planned Parenthood. It is high time that Planned Parenthood come off the taxpayers’ dime.

Shamara Riley is the founder of Booker Rising, a news site for black moderates and black conservatives (www.bookerrising.net).