With the current war waged on Planned Parenthood by our government, it is important to understand what is at risk. Planned Parenthood, despite popular belief, is more than just a place where women go to get abortions. Planned Parenthood’s general services include: anemia testing, cholesterol screening, diabetes screening, physical exams, flu vaccines, help with quitting smoking, high blood pressure screenings, tetanus vaccines and thyroid screening. They also offer men’s sexual healthcare services such as: checkups for reproductive or sexual health problems, colon, testicular and prostate cancer screenings, condoms and vasectomies, male infertility screenings, STD checkups and many more. For women specifically, their services include: STD testing, cancer screenings, birth control, Pap tests and HPV tests, emergency contraception, vaginal inspections and abortions.
However, my point isn’t to commend Planned Parenthood on their services, it is to explain why information about birth control, and more importantly, the choice to receive birth control, results in a better quality of life especially for women living below the poverty line. Many unwanted pregnancies are a result of a lack of sexual education. According to the Guttmacher Institute, not only are unintended pregnancy rates for women living below the poverty line more than five times as high as the rate for the women in the highest income level, but the rates of unintended pregnancies correlate with lower levels of education. Planned Parenthood’s goal is to make birth control and health services accessible and affordable to lower-income families, while also providing education that would have otherwise not been given.
If we take the example of a woman living in poverty who became pregnant unexpectedly, we must consider the financial burdens she would undergo. According to CNN Money, a middle-income family will spend on average $233,610 on having a child. This unexpected pregnancy may result in the woman, especially if she is a teenager, dropping out of school and taking on multiple jobs in order to raise their child. The inability to plan out when and if to have kids directly correlates to the quality of life for both the parents as well as the children.
This is not to say that women should not have children unless they make $200,000 a year. Instead, it is important to educate women on what their options are and to have a choice to decide what to do with their bodies. The availability of information to women will equip women with the choice to plan out their life. If we deny women education and choice, especially those in the lower class, then we as a country are committing a great injustice. This is not new to developing countries where poverty is common. For example, in Sub Saharan Africa, only about 20 percent of women use family planning services. This results in a stagnant Total Fertility Rate. From a large family with no stable form of income, poverty becomes a cycle.
With wider access to birth control and education, abortion rates will then also decline. Once again, by allowing women to plan when to have a child before becoming sexually active, the decision to end a pregnancy will become a less-used option. However, in order to do this, adequate birth control must be easily accessible.
At the end of the day, it isn’t anyone’s place to insist a woman have a child or prevent a woman from having one. It is solely a woman’s choice. However, access to education about reproductive health ends in the ability to break a cycle of poverty. Planned Parenthood is important because it gives women access to education that some vow to keep away. More so, once a woman has this education she can make the choice for herself, by herself.