An attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on women’s health
BridgeND | Thursday, April 19, 2018
Bodily integrity, the right to physical autonomy, is fundamental to the self-determination of every human being. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights safeguards this principle by ensuring freedom from torture, sexual assault and forced disappearance. However, where industrial development permits, bodily integrity also includes an individual’s access to high-quality, affordable healthcare. In this regard, the self-determination afforded by contraceptives, prenatal check-ups and pregnancy tests should not just be a privilege of the economic elite, but should be universally available regardless of socioeconomic status. The deterioration of this right is profoundly evident in the constant political attack on women’s access to reproductive care. An infringement on this access is an infringement on a woman’s physical autonomy, an unacceptable yet prevalent phenomenon in women of low socioeconomic status.
In order to fully recognize the implications of universal bodily integrity every woman must have access to both preventative and reproductive care. Planned Parenthood is a critical provider of these services, offering birth control, STD/STI testing, referral services and sexual education. Its existence is both ubiquitous and critical, acting as the only family planning provider in many underserved areas, and serving on average one in five women around the country during the course of their lifetime. However, despite this prevalence, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of last July attempted to eliminate all federal funding previously received by Planned Parenthood. The advertised reasoning behind this proposal stemmed from a false premise: Planned Parenthood does not use federal funds to finance abortion services. The federal funding at the heart of this debate instead overwhelmingly finances Medicaid and Title X reimbursements for preventative care and family planning.
Furthermore, without Planned Parenthood, many individuals of low socioeconomic status would find these services inaccessible. According to CBS News, in 21 percent of counties in which Planned Parenthood operates, there is no other health care provider which serves individuals reliant on government safety nets. Additionally, according to 2014 data from Planned Parenthood’s website, more than 75 percent of their patients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line. Furthermore, the AHCA would have prohibited the use of Medicaid in Planned Parenthood clinics, disproportionally affecting rural women of low socioeconomic status. In this regard, policies which restrict access to the critical services provided by Planned Parenthood make bodily autonomy a privilege of the elite. Concerns associated with economic mobility are subordinate to concerns relating to physical wellbeing — someone focusing constant energy on their reproductive health will have less capital to commit to their career. Furthermore, unplanned pregnancy — a natural result of inadequate access to contraceptive care — has also been shown to limit economic mobility. According to the Atlantic, a 2010 study from Boston University found that unplanned pregnancies limited women’s workforce participation by up to 25 percent. Affordable, accessible preventative and reproductive care is therefore a prerequisite of economic mobility, a fundamental component of modern self-determination.
Republican lawmakers’ ceaseless attack on Planned Parenthood continually threatens the bodily integrity and self-determination of their low-income constituents. Women cannot truly express bodily autonomy if they cannot control their reproductive health, limitations on which also restrict their economic mobility. Threatening to defund Planned Parenthood therefore threatens to trap women of low socioeconomic status in a devastating cycle of poverty for the sake of a false premise; no federal funding can or ever will finance abortion services while the Hyde Amendment is in place. Provisions such as the AHCA therefore fundamentally threaten the human rights of low-income women.
Sarah Brown is a political science and neuroscience major from Grand County, Colorado. She is a rising senior and will be serving as BridgeND’s president in the fall of 2018. The viewpoints expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of BridgeND as an organization.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.