5 Things You Probably Don't Know About Planned Parenthood

Congress is gearing up to defund Planned Parenthood, but should they?

Planned Parenthood is one of the most controversial organizations in the United States, but many Americans have misconceptions about what it actually does.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday that Congress was planning to defund Planned Parenthood in a bill that aims to repeal Obamacare. Previous efforts to defund Planned Parenthood have failed because of President Obama's veto power, but this effort is more likely to succeed following this month's transition of power.

With that in mind, it seems worth addressing Planned Parenthood's role and responsibility in the public health of Americans. 2.5 million people visit Planned Parenthood annually, and a lot goes on there. 

Here are some important things you may not know.

1. By law, federal funding cannot support abortions.

One of the driving factors behind the push to defund Planned Parenthood is that the organization provides abortion services. But taxpayer money — your money — does not go towards funding those services. 

Providing abortions with federal funding has been banned by law since 1976, meaning none of the $528.4 million in government funds that go to Planned Parenthood end up being used for those services. Instead, private donations, money made from fees for service and non-government health services revenue is used to fund abortions.

2. Planned Parenthood isn't just for women.

In Planned Parenthood's frequently asked questions section, there is an important note that most Americans probably don't know: the organization provides services for men, too.

"Yes. Planned Parenthood offers services for men," it says. "Including screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, counseling and testing for HIV, condoms, and counseling and referrals for free or low-cost vasectomy."

3. Many women don't have other choices for healthcare without Planned Parenthood.

Research has found that in counties where Planned Parenthood locations closed, other health facilities did not pop up and fill the gap.

One in six American counties have a Planned Parenthood, and the American Public Health Association said it was "ludicrous" that politicians would claim providers could just absorb the 2.5 million Planned Parenthood patients. 

4. Planned Parenthood's most important services are preventative.

In 2013-2014, Planned Parenthood performed 10.6 million services. More than 10 million were preventative care.

Planned Parenthood provides every kind of contraceptive (IUD, pill, patch, ring, shot), breast cancer screenings, STI tests and treatment, HIV testing, vasectomy consultations, pregnancy tests, vaccines, and even basic health screenings like checking someone's cholesterol or blood pressure. 

Perhaps most importantly, though, Planned Parenthood is one of the oldest sexual education providers in the country. As A Plus has previously reported, abstinence-based sexual education and teen pregnancy are strongly correlated. The kind of sexual education Planned Parenthood provides has been shown to decrease teen pregnancies and the spread of STIs.

5. Defunding Planned Parenthood may not even save taxpayers money.

It seems logical: cut tax money that goes to Planned Parenthood and you'll save tax payers money.

But the truth — as it usually does — seems a bit more complex. Without Planned Parenthood, millions of people could be without access to the aforementioned preventative healthcare. In 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agency estimated that defunding the organization would actually cost the government $130 million over a decade. 

Not only that, but in the counties where women would lose access to Planned Parenthood, there would be an increase in unwanted pregnancies. The additional births would eventually be covered by Medicaid, whose spending would increase by an estimated $650 million, according to Think Progress' Economic Editor Bryce Covert. 

But this is far from hypothetical. In 2011, the state of Texas slashed family planning funding. When they realized that decision was going to lead to 24,000 babies that weren't otherwise planned, something that would cost $273 million to cover in medical expenses and care, a bipartisan effort to reinstate the funding commenced immediately.

Cover photo: Shutterstock / a katz.

More From A Plus