Nope, Abortion Is Not Planned Parenthood's "Central Purpose"

What Women Really Think
May 6 2013 5:18 PM

Nope, Abortion Is Not Planned Parenthood's "Central Purpose"

167540738
Barack Obama addresses the Planned Parenthood national conference in Washington, DC

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

When Obama spoke to Planned Parenthood recently for its national conference, he made the entirely rational decision to describe routine gynecological care as "women's health care." In Politico, Rich Lowry's response was a marvel of mendacity, a piece so thoroughly dishonest that the only accurate fact conveyed is that Obama spoke on a Friday. Lowry accused Obama of avoiding the topic of abortion. What he actually meant was that Obama did not use the word “abortion.” In fact, Obama criticized North Dakota for trying to ban abortions before many women even know they're pregnant, only he used the term “right to choose,” which everyone understands means the right to choose an abortion This was not an unusual or especially political choice. “Pro-choice” has been the standard term pretty much since Roe v. Wade.

But where Lowry was really dishonest is in his attempt to hoodwink his audience into believing that abortion is the sum total of Planned Parenthood's work, characterizing the procedure as the organization’s "central purpose" and claiming that liberals who talk about "women's health" or "reproductive health" are always and forever referring to abortion.

Listening to [Obama], you could be forgiven for thinking that the country is riven by a fierce dispute over whether women should be allowed to choose their own ob-gyns or decide whether to take contraceptives or to get cancer screenings. One side is pro-women’s health, the other anti.

In one way, this is an accurate description of reality. The right is waging a war on women's ability to get basic gynecological services. That's why Republicans tried to shut down the federal government over funding that is earmarked for contraception, STI treatment, and cancer screenings—by federal law, federal money that goes to Planned Parenthood cannot be for abortion. That's why they keep attacking contraception subsidies, on the state level as well as the national level. That's why the single most controversial item in the Affordable Care Act is the provision of contraception coverage for women with insurance. The word "abortion" gets thrown around a lot, but it's clearly just a stalking horse for attacks on contraception and other health care—such as Pap smears and STI testing—associated with women choosing to have sex.

But here is where it is not reality: All together now: 97 percent of Planned Parenthood's services are not abortion. Attacks on Planned Parenthood are, by definition, largely attacks on non-abortion services. Attacks on Planned Parenthood's funding, regardless of claimed intent, are strictly attacks on contraception, STI testing/treatment, and cancer screenings.

Media Matters provides a nice little chart, so that those who struggle to understand that 97 is bigger than three can get a visual reference:

In fact, the group prevents over 200,000 abortions a year, and could do much more if the right quit attacking them for fulfilling their actual mission: dispensing routine gynecological care at a reasonable price. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.