Cecile Richards is president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Planned Parenthood has been a trusted nonprofit provider of women’s health care for nearly a century. Each year, 2.7 million people come to our health centers for high-quality, nonjudgmental, compassionate care.
Since our very beginning, our health centers, providers and patients have come under outrageous attacks, political and otherwise. These attacks are not about us. They are about the ability of women across the country to access health care. Period.
The most recent attacks in this decades-long campaign represent a new low.
These extremists created a fake business, made apparently misleading corporate filings and then used false government identifications to gain access to Planned Parenthood’s medical and research staff with the agenda of secretly filming without consent — then heavily edited the footage to make false and absurd assertions about our standards and services. They spent three years doing everything they could — not to uncover wrongdoing, but rather to create it. They failed.
While predictably these videos do not show anything illegal on Planned Parenthood’s part, medical and scientific conversations can be upsetting to hear, and I immediately apologized for the tone that was used, which did not reflect the compassion that people have come to know and expect from Planned Parenthood.
While our opponents have been working to create scandal and panic where none exists, doctors and nurses at Planned Parenthood health centers have continued to provide care to thousands of women, men and young people every day — contraception, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and safe and legal abortion.
Whose efforts are doing more to help families and make our country healthier?
Planned Parenthood is at the leading edge of providing the highest quality reproductive health care — including providing every new form of FDA-approved contraception and using technology to reach patients in underserved areas. That commitment has led to important health advances and helped produce the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in nearly 40 years.
Despite that success, some members of Congress last week made clear their ultimate goal to eliminate access to safe and legal abortion — by targeting Planned Parenthood. In effect, they are trying to cut patients off from programs that reduce unintended pregnancies and save lives. It’s important to understand what exactly would be “defunded” by these politicians.
The federal funding Planned Parenthood health centers receive goes toward preventive medicine — breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment, well-woman exams — that millions of low- and middle-income women across the country rely on. Those are the services that would be lost. Some politicians claim that ending support to Planned Parenthood is related to abortion services, knowing full well that because of the Hyde amendment there has been no federal funding of abortion services except for very narrow exceptions for nearly four decades — and that low-income women have been prevented full access to abortion as a result.
Attacking this funding is attacking women who need preventive health care, including women who need cancer screenings and contraception. Congress should not allow politics to get in the way of lifesaving care.
The women who come to Planned Parenthood don’t do so to make a political statement; they come to get high-quality, affordable and compassionate care. When a patient comes to us, we don’t ask her if she’s a Democrat or a Republican because health-care provision should never be political.
A fringe group in Congress tried to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011 and failed. It won’t work this time either.
The American people know that we provide essential health services to millions. They know that because it’s likely that at one point in their lives they’ve gone to Planned Parenthood, or a friend or partner has.
One in five women has relied on Planned Parenthood for health care in her lifetime. Those women are the victims here. Planned Parenthood patients turn to us not just because they know we uphold the highest medical standards of care but also because we are part of their local community. More than half of Planned Parenthood’s health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas. And for many low-income women, Planned Parenthood health centers are their sole source of medical care. Our health centers are lifelines that our country cannot afford to cut.
The extremists will not win this battle. The goal of these attacks is to get Planned Parenthood to stop providing care — and that will never happen. We have proudly provided reproductive health-care services for 99 years, and we are only getting started.
Whether Congress chooses to stand with extremists or with the women of the United States is up to them. Planned Parenthood will always stand with our patients and protect the rights of every woman to access care. Today, we need the American people to stand with them too.