I have to say something that has been bothering me since last week. I feel like I am doing the world an injustice not speaking up. It all started when I saw the posts on Facebook from other LDS women about Planned Parenthood. They were pleas to petition politicians about refusing federal funding to Planned Parenthood. When I first saw it, I wanted to cry. I was so upset. Do you really know what you are asking? Do you know what those consequences would be?
Planned Parenthood has been around since 1942 and received federal funding since 1970, which was put into place by President Nixon. The types of services that are provided: birth control, emergency contraception, breast, cervical and testicular cancer screening, pregnancy testing, counseling, treatment for STDs, sexual education, menopause treatments, vasectomies, tubal ligations, and abortions.
I know that the last word is what causes members pause and cause for concern. So let us discuss and address this. In terms of their funding, there are laws that ban Planned Parenthood from using governement funds to pay for abortions. Abortions account for 3% of the services provided; however with over 820 clinics that does mean 332,278 abortions annually, which does make them the largest provider of abortions in the United States. I do not know if that is because people know they can go there to get one. I do not know.
The Church stated their position in March 1991: "We reaffirm that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has consistently opposed elective abortion.[...] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution has not favored or opposed specific legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion." They further state that to come out about laws is impractical--there are too many places the Church is at. Also, they state there are extenuating circumstances to abortion, notice the "elective" qualifier to abortion in the statement. Considering a very shaky number of 191,670 victims of rape or sexual assault reported in 2005 (under reporting, definitions called into question, etc.) that means we have no idea how many abortions are not actually elective for not only sexual assault reasons but also medical.
Let's talk about what else Planned Parenthood does in numbers. According to a 2008-2009 annual report and fact sheet, contraception constituted 35% of total services, STI/STD testing and treatment constituted 34%, cancer testing and screening constituted 17%; other women's health procedures, including pregnancy, prenatal, midlife, and infertility, were 11%. Those percentages include prenatal services to 7,021 clients and 977 adoption referrals to other agencies. The organization also said its doctors and nurses annually conduct 1 million screenings for cervical cancer, 830,000 breast exams and some 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases.
Do you know that back in 1961 Planned Parenthood's actions sparked a Supreme Court case? Up until then, it was illegal in Connecticut to distribute contraceptives, even to married couples.While the church teaches that we should not put off having children and they are a blessing, the handbooks of the church state that it is between the couple and Heavenly Father. Good for Planned Parenthood for making that a reality.
We as a church know that sex before marriage is a sin. It is a serious sin. However, we also recognize that there are those who don't believe the same as the LDS church (which is a shock sometimes, wink wink). If we didn't, we would not have LDS Family Services which promotes adoption so that those who are not born under the covenant can gain the access to this saving ordinance and be sealed to an LDS family.
Are we willing to sacrifice free services to those who truly need---including cancer screening? Those important services are funded by the government (therefore our tax dollars). Are we willing to delude ourselves into thinking that if we take their funding they would go away, or at least not preform abortions---I doubt that would happen. Instead, because abortions are not government funded, we would lose those things that are like cancer screenings.
If Planned Parenthood is a safe space for a scared teenage girl after a rape, I believe in that. If Planned Parenthood educates those who stand in need, either about STDs or birth control, I believe in that. If Planned Parenthood lets someone catch breast cancer early because they lack health insurance, I believe in that. If someone who is poor receives free prenatal care, I believe in that. I believe in a place for women to go. Not all women are raised in supportive, loving homes. Not everyone has the gospel in their lives. Let them have a safe place.
**All data pulled from Wikipedia and a New York Times articles about Planned Parenthood funding. Statement from LDS Church copied from LDS.org.