In the current issue of The New Yorker, Jill Lepore reveals the history of Planned Parenthood, beginning with the first birth-control clinic in the United States, which opened in October, 1916, in Brooklyn. Margaret Sanger was one of the three employees there, and went on to devote her life to the cause of making birth control available to all women.
It is a fascinating history.
Planned Parenthood In Brooklyn, 2011
Lepore describes how the Planned Parenthood health center in Brooklyn is a typical Planned Parenthood clinic. Last year, seventeen thousand patients received medical care there. Two-thirds were insured by Medicaid, or paid reduced rates, or received free treatment. They were tested for S.T.I.s and U.T.I.s; they were prescribed birth-control pills and antibiotics; they were fitted for diaphragms and I.U.D.s; they had pregnancy tests and Pap smears and abortions.
Planned Parenthood says that one in five women in the United States has been treated at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Critics of Planned Parenthood , who are engaged in a sustained attack on the organization, say that most of those women are going to clinics to have abortions, paid for, in violation of the Hyde Amendment, with taxpayer money.
Abortions Make Up Less Than Three Percent Of Planned Parenthood’s Services
On the contrary, according to Planned Parenthood, abortions make up less then three percent of its services.
From The New Yorker:
The campaign against PP has been unrelenting. Michele Bachman, in one speech, accused the organization of “committing crimes and enabling young minor girls and covering up issues I don’t even want to talk about because it is so disgusting” and in another, described clinics in swank suburban malls where wealthy women are “picking up Starbucks” can be found “stopping off for an abortion.”
From my days working as an abortion counselor, I can vouch for the fact that the decision to abort a foetus is far more weighty than “stopping off for an abortion.” Obviously, Bachman has never been in the agonizing position of having to decide on whether or not to keep a foetus.
Jackie Speier, my Democratic Congresswoman from California, told the story of her own abortion, owing to medical complications in the seventeenth week of a planned pregnancy: “For you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed, or done cavalierly, or done without any thought, is preposterous. To think that we are here tonight debating this issue, when the American people, if they are listening, are scratching their heads and wondering: What does this have to do with me getting a job?”
The fury over Planned Parenthood is two political passions – opposition to abortion and opposition to government programs for the poor – acting as one. So far, it has nearly led to the shutdown of the federal government, required Republican Presidential nominees to swear their fealty to the (so-called) pro-life lobby, tied up legislatures and courts in more than half a dozen states, launched a congressional investigation, and helped cripple the Democratic Party.
Abortion wasn’t a partisan issue until Republicans made it one. In June of 1972, a Gallup poll reported that sixty-eight percent of Republicans and fifty-nine percent of Democrats agreed that “the decision to have an abortion should be made solely by a woman and her physician.” Fifty-six percent of Catholics thought so, too.
Where We Are Now
Republicans established the very federal family-planning programs that Republican members of Congress and the G.O.P.’s Presidential candidates are trying to hard to dismantle. Republicans made abortion a partisan issue, contorted the GOP to mold itself around this issue, but Democrats allowed their party to be defined by it.
Congress failed to defund Planned Parenthood, but several states around the country have undertaken their own measures. Still, the clutch of state defunding laws look likely to fail in the courts.
What would Margaret Sanger say now?
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