Time and again, extremists and politicians have tried — and failed — to throw a one-two punch against Planned Parenthood.
Political attacks on Planned Parenthood are nothing new. Nine days after founder Margaret Sanger opened the country’s first birth control clinic in 1916, police raided the clinic and shut it down. Sanger spent 30 days in jail teaching other inmates about birth control. Planned Parenthood has retained that spirit of resistance — and, with the overwhelming support of the American people, we will keep beating back attacks today.
Fast-forward to the 21st century: Politicians and extremists who are dead-set on outlawing abortion and denying people the ability to make their own health care decisions try to bring a one-two punch against Planned Parenthood’s health centers. First, extremist groups (often using misleading names like “Live Action” and the “Center for Medical Progress”) produce and release doctored videos, which are highly edited, intentionally deceptive, misleading, which invariably debunked but which make it seem like Planned Parenthood officials or staff did something wrong. Then, politicians use these videos as a springboard to try to “defund” Planned Parenthood. They’re true pioneers of fake news.
“Defunding” doesn’t actually stop abortions, by the way.
A dangerous and unfair law already prohibits using federal funds for abortion (except in dire cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger). Instead, “defunding” prevents Planned Parenthood’s health centers from being reimbursed by Medicaid and other government programs for the preventive health services they provide — services like birth control, as well as lifesaving cancer and STD screenings.
That, in turn, only stops Planned Parenthood’s patients from accessing the high-quality preventive care that is often unavailable to them anywhere else. From extremists and politicians who claim to value life above all, this is a mean-spirited and underhanded strategy that targets and punishes those who already have unequal access to health care: low-income people, people of color, and people who live in rural areas.
Decade of “Defund” and Related Attacks
To give you a better sense of how this tactic works, here’s a short history of this one-two punch in action:
2007: After years of manipulative, fake videos and other attacks on Planned Parenthood, Vice-President Mike Pence (then a member of Congress) introduces the first federal “defunding” legislation and works hard to make it law. Women’s health champions beat back this effort. But the idea spreads and sometimes passes at the state level.
2008-2012: Once again, anti-abortion extremists release a series of doctored videos in an effort to hoodwink legislators and the public into believing Planned Parenthood staff violated the law. Each video is successively debunked. Nevertheless, anti-abortion politicians in Congress ignore this evidence, and bring the federal government to the brink of a shutdown in their effort to “defund” Planned Parenthood in 2011. They fail.
2013: Another set of new videos proves to be deceptively edited and false.
2015: Following the release of more fake videos, anti-abortion politicians once again move to “defund” Planned Parenthood. This time, after failing multiple times, “defunding” legislation passes both Houses of Congress by being attached to a budget reconciliation measure, only to be stopped by President Obama. Rather than criticize these inflammatory and dangerous tactics, the GOP writes “defunding” language into its platform. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood health centers experience an increase in violent attacks and threats across the country.
2017: In March, Mike Pence casts the tie-breaking vote to repeal an Obama-era protection for Planned Parenthood patients who get family planing care through Title X. In May, the U.S. House passes the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and "defund" Planned Parenthood, blocking Medicaid patients from care at its health centers. Planned Parenthood supporters fought back, and are continuing to fight back.
The Fight Ahead
While anti-abortion politicians and groups are planning more “defunding” efforts, Planned Parenthood is up for the fight. We haven’t let extremists in Congress shut down Planned Parenthood before, and we’re not going to let them now — and neither will the millions of Americans who stand with Planned Parenthood. With your help, we will fight like hell to stop these extremists with words, with actions, with everything we have.
Over Planned Parenthood’s 100-year history, the organization has never backed down, and we never will. We intend to keep fighting, and winning, for many more years to come.