Federal funding for Planned Parenthood is this week's topic of my Scripps column with Ben Boychuk. I suspect my pro-choice friends will not think me vigorous enough in defending the right to abortion, but my mindset was to persuade pro-lifers—to the extent they can be convinced—that Planned Parenthood is worthy of federal support. My take:
For many years now, pro-choice liberals have accused pro-life conservatives of being more concerned about the lives of the unborn than they are of living, breathing human beings. Often, that charge is a bit over-the-top and unfair. In the case of the Planned Parenthood debate, it's not.Ben has a different take, obviously. Click the link to read his side.
In the course of a single year, Planned Parenthood carries out nearly 1 million screenings for cervical cancers. More than 800,000 breast exams. It provides contraception to nearly 2.5 million women. And it performs roughly 4 million tests for sexually transmitted diseases.
Planned Parenthood, in other words, helps keep a great many women healthy. The agency's efforts in this regard are for the unmitigated good.
The agency also provides more than 300,000 abortions a year. Federal funding does not directly subsidize those abortions, but let's be honest: If Planned Parenthood crumbles because it loses its federal funding, it can't carry out those abortions. But neither can it do all the other good stuff it does.
Which is why thoughtful abortion opponents should carefully consider their support for the effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Maybe they succeed in putting a dent in the number of abortions -- but they do so at the cost of condemning many women to late detection of (and death from) cervical cancer, breast cancer, HIV and more. Is that trade-off worth it?
Other conservatives will argue that, in a time of belt-tightening, the federal government can't afford to subsidize every good thing. Perhaps that's true, and we should set priorities. Public health, it seems, should be among the highest priorities -- a society can't function if it's sick and dying. Women's health is a huge part of public health.
And Planned Parenthood is perhaps the most reliable provider of women's health services. The funding should stay.