Defund family planning? Is that pro-life?

In my early days in the women’s health movement, I learned the slogan, “The personal is political.” As I’ve read … Continued

In my early days in the women’s health movement, I learned the slogan, “The personal is political.” As I’ve read the news coming out of the House of Representatives this past two weeks, I thought to myself, “The political is also personal.”

I worked at a Planned Parenthood affiliate as a volunteer teen counselor in 1976, and then as the Director of Education and Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington between 1981 and 1984. Former Planned Parenthood staff are loyal alumni, and for many of us our time serving women in its clinics remains a career highlight.

I also served in the U.S. Public Health Service during the Carter administration, where I co-wrote the guidelines for family planning in the community health center program and directed a national adolescent health initiative for the Office of Maternal and Child Health.

So I’m taking all the latest attacks on the Title X family planning program, the maternal and child health block grants, and the community health centers program personally. The House Appropriations Committee has just announced significant spending cuts, including the proposed elimination of the community health center, teen pregnancy prevention, maternal and children’s health, and family planning programs. Representative Mike Pence’s (R-Ind.) H.R. 217 would deny federal family planning funding to groups that offer abortion services. This is a direct attack not just on Planned Parenthood, but also on the low-income teens, women, and men who depend on their services. Rep. Pence has also announced that he will offer an amendment to specifically prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding. In reality, family planning mitigates the need for abortion, and that every $1 invested in Title X saves almost $4, yet that seems to be forgotten in this political effort to defund family planning clinics and Planned Parenthood clinics specifically across the country.

It is inconceivable to me that these attacks on access to family planning are coming from those who seek to reduce abortions in the U.S. or overseas. Surely they know that family planning reduces the need for abortion. And yet, just yesterday, Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) filed an amendment to eliminate all funding for international family planning and reproductive health for the remainder of the fiscal year.

As the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Justice says, “the sacredness of human life is best upheld when women and men create human life intentionally and women are able to have healthy pregnancies and childbirths. We affirm women and men as moral agents who have the capacity, right, and responsibility to make their own decisions about procreation, including family size and the spacing of their children.” I applaud the president’s budget, which includes increases for both the Title X program and international reproductive health and family planning.

House leadership has also escalated attacks on women’s access to abortion. H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” Act, would deny tax credits and benefits to employers who offer health insurance that includes abortion coverage. Even more draconian, H.R. 358 would allow hospitals to turn away pregnant women who need abortions, even if their lives are in danger. It is beyond incomprehensible to me that a hospital with a religious affiliation would let a woman die rather than provided a legal service.

How dare a hospital or a provider claim to be pro-life while denying life-saving medical procedures! As the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Abortion As a Moral Decision says, “when there is a conflict between the conscience of the provider and the woman, the institution delivering the services has an obligation to assure that the woman’s conscience and decision will be respected and that she has access to reproductive health care, either directly or through referral.” More than 1100 clergy nationwide have endorsed this letter.

As a person of faith who supports women’s moral agency, I am horrified by what may be the most severe attacks on women’s ability to make their own decisions about their reproductive health in the past 35 years. The vast majority of Americans–and the majority of people of faith–support and indeed use contraceptives. Millions of people of faith ground their commitment to sexual and reproductive health care in their religious beliefs that affirm that it is precisely because life is sacred that it should never be created carelessly.

The Title X family planning program has helped women and men avoid unintended pregnancies for more than 40 years. It not only saves money, it saves people’s lives. Surely that’s the only moral response.

Written by

  • Casey1

    Only in the fevered religious fantasies of the American Taliban — Cristianists all — is it okay to force their primitive beliefs on the rest of us.Like most Americans I utterly reject their fundamentalism, their unproven and unverifiable beliefs, their hatred of anyone with common sense and a devout belief in science and empirical truth.I was brought up to avoid commenting on other peoples’ religion, but I am sick and tired of having their religious nonsense pushed into my face and my womb.When you idiots can prove that an embryo has a soul, I will reconsider. In fact, I’d like you to prove that anybody has a soul. You may believe it, but where’s your evidence?Until you have evidence, keep your crap to yourselves and let the rest of us lead our lives and control our bodies just as your Jesus would have preached.

  • wrybread

    @YEAL9, if you are *genuinely* concerned about the correct use of birth control you should applaud Planned Parenthood, since staff at their clinics take the time to sit down with women and go through the proper use of each method in detail, far more so in my experience than the average HMO doctor. In fact, if you are *genuinely* concerned about reducing the number of abortions, you and other pro-lifers should be focusing all your energy on educating people about the correct use of birth control and increasing access to it, since that will produce a FAR greater reduction in abortions per dollar or hour spent than trying to change someone’s closely held beliefs on such an intense subject once the pregnancy has occured. Pro lifers should be the world’s most passionate evangelists for birth control. But from what I see of the so called “pro life” movement, reducing the number of abortions is not its genuine goal – rather it’s forcing their interpretation of Christian theology down everyone else’s throats and wanting everyone else to say “Yes, you are right, we are sinners, please control our sexuality for us!”

  • MiuBot116

    Thank you Rev. Haffner for this article! My mother is also a Planned Parenthood “alum” and she looks back with great fondness on that time in her career.I know of no pro-choice people who are, in fact, pro-abortion. Not a one.Contraceptives are the BEST WAY to prevent abortion. If you are pro-“life” and anti-contraception, you need to do some serious thinking about this issue and why you really believe that — it’s not really about abortion, is it? Because if it were, contraception would be a no-brainer.

  • pgr88

    Abortionists like to say: “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one!”To which I say – “if you want to kill your baby, pay for the damn operation yourself!”

  • djmolter

    I’d like to think that “pro-life” also means allowing people to make their own decisions about how they conduct their lives.I just read that the governor of Texas says, “Abstinence works.” Well, of course it does. But teaching “abstinence only” doesn’t.

  • WmarkW

    I just read that the governor of Texas says, “Abstinence works.”Only if used properly and consistently.It has a tremendously high failure rate otherwise.

  • lufrank1

    Sigh . . . as a research/teaching professor emeritus who participated at the national and international levels in research on fertilization and early development . . . it is Appalling that the Vatican and many non-Catholics as well actually believe that a fertilized human egg or blastula or gastrula or embryo or early fetus with NO FUNCTIONING brain is a human Baby.

  • terencef100

    “Male dominated” anti-aboriton movement?Really? The misandry of such inferences is shocking. Even if the claim was true (which I don’t think it is), surely men have an EQUAL right to care about unborn life as women do.Or, hey, pro-aborters, is equality only a one-way street for you guys? I guess it is, seeing as you don’t give a crap about the rights of the human lives you destroy.

  • jonswitzer

    Conservatives are always told that they do not care about community and poor people. All they care about is money. Except, that this is precisely where Conservatives show their care for the community, in promoting values that lead to a more moral society (like marriage, monogamy, faithfulness, integrity). These are all things that help to unite and tie and community together. When they are lost, society falls apart. The sexual revolution taught all of us that unrestrained sex leads to broken homes.

  • magellan1

    In answer to the question posed in the headline – why yes, it is pro-life! Thank you for asking.

  • ashtar377

    Thank you Magellan1. I wholly agree. But apparently we need to “navigate” these lib-tards (love that phrase) into the waters of good Christian reason.You see, my liberal children, we need to not just reduce funding for family planning, we need to get rid of it ALL! No abortions, no pills, no condoms which God says have holes in them big enough for viral particles so it must be true (and even if it isn’t, we’ll keep telling the Africans anyway because who really cares, right?). This will create a wonderful world as God intended, where every time you have sex, it is SOLELY for the purpose of having a baby. Be fruitful and multiply. Who knows, if you have enough of them maybe you can get your own tv show, or at the very least a beautiful epitaph in stone inside of a catherdral tallying how many children you had before you died. Speaking of dying, I know those “liberated” women always rant and rave about how if abortion is illegal, it will just bring back dangerous illegal abortions. GOOD! If you are so godless and horrible that you would even think of removing from your body the magical result of a drunken grope-fest with your step dad, you deserve whatever happens to you in that dirty back alley. It was probably your fault for leading him on in the first place.No PURE christian ever wants sex for pleasure. That is why abstinence-only programs work. Who wants orgasmic ecstasy when you’ve got good-ol’ fashioned self-righteuosness? Those urges below the waist need to be turned to God’s work. Sexual “frustration” just means you need an outlet for all that creative energy inside you. This is why God created other religions. This is also why He created tanks and C-4. Speak to your local army recruiter and they can put the pieces together for you. As for you ladies, you will be too busy cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, shopping, praying, and reading about the rapture to ever even thing about THOSE urges and what they might lead to with that cute young man who sometimes looks at you in church and he has that strong, manly Sean Hannity jawline with the baby-blues of Glenn Beck and Lord what I wouldn’t do to him if we were alone in the rec room…no, you won’t be having those thoughts…ever.So join me, fellow Christians in following the moral and upright path because, God willing, with enough botched abortions, over-population, war, and repressed feelings, we too can create a culture of Life.

  • ashtar377

    PS: The “Song of Solomon” should be removed from the Bible. Just take my word for it, don’t read that filthy thing.Sincerely,The Golden Apple of Eris

  • bobnpvine

    Two issues…First, conservatives may care about poor people but caring and helping are two different issues… When I was a social worker in adult services I constantly hit the churches for food for my clients… Lots of those churches were good ol’ Southern Baptist churches and those folks were tighter than tree bark when it came to walking the walk… Lotta empty food pantries…Second, I find it interesting that the most vocal pro-lifers are also the most staunch supporters of the death penalty…Lotta stuff just doesn’t jive here…Bob

  • Nymous

    I get really sick of loony fetus cultists. The very same crazy fanatics go out and finance tens of millions of abortions in China every year via their purchases at Wal-Mart of goods made in companies the government of China has ownership in and don’t blink an eye about it. They’re total hypocrites.

  • jonswitzer

    Ashtar,How effectively you knocked down that straw man in your satire. I’m sure you enjoyed that. Feel free to deal with real issues raised by pro-lifers at any time…

  • jonswitzer

    The death penalty is precisely what pro-lifers are about. The inability of some to understand the nuanced discussion here is embarrassing. The death penalty should be applied to those who murder/rape etc. without any moral restraint. That’s called justice.Killing a human, in the womb, because it is inconvenient is precisely what makes someone a murderer. (and please, the one to put on trial is the abortion doctor making millions in his trade not the woman in crisis!) Killing someone else, who has no ability to voice his protest or strength to stop the insanity, that is precisely what justice must stop. Justice stops inordinate killing. The death penalty is the application of justice to someone who has no respect for the life of others. The death penalty is like a surgeon carving the cancer out of a patient. It stops what is killing the patient. Therefore, the surgeon is saving life. Justice does the same with murderers/rapists. Nuance!

  • jonswitzer

    Nymous,China’s evil use of abortion and its multitude of other civil rights abuses should have led us to stop doing business with them a long time ago. Unfortunately, some people argue that such a judgment is imposing our standards on them. (Imperialism they call it) It can get so confusing, when are we supposed to be allowed to impose standards and not?

  • ashtar377

    Game on, Jonswitzer. Where would you like to start? I love rational debate. You seem like you do too. I’ll start:You speak in your earlier post about nuance. I would say that your analogy of the death penalty to a surgeon is apt for the situation. I would follow that with the probability of a surgeon aborting a fetus if it was indeed acting as a cancer, that is killing her. That in my opinion is, for starters, an example of when abortion might be a viable path and a moral action. Do you agree or disagree, and if so why? Also, is this at all similar or much different from the other example people use of rape or incest impregnations being aborted as morally justified?

  • ashtar377

    Also, on a side note, I would disagree that rape is a capital crime. Just to be clear. That is perhaps another debate.

  • bobnpvine

    Yo, jonswitzer…Bible tells us not to kill… No fine print… No “unlesses”…Your death penalty opinion renders your abortion views “Null and void”…You are either pro-LIFE or you aren’t… You, apparently, aren’t…Bob

  • bobnpvine

    Think it is also interesting to revisit the no-so “good ol’ days”…White women of means were takin’ those little vacations (wink, wink) to Mexico and other countries where real doctors were doing abortions safely…Poor women were going to make-shift clinics (if you can call them that) in the back of gas stations and dieing…That was the reality on the ground… This argument isn’t as much about rightness or wrongness but “fairness” and “equality”…I mean, lets’ not forget the thousands of poor women, most African American, who died back then because, unlike their better off white counterparts, couldn’t afford those little vacations (wink, wink)…Everyone back then knew the deal…This is a civil rights issue as much as anything… Hey, abortion is a toughie for anyone… Ain’t like anyone wakes up and thinks that having an abortion is fun??? The issuePersonally??? I am anti-abortion… I would never think to abort any fetus that I had created but……that’s me… That is my ****choice***…Even Sarah Palin used the word ****choice****…I mean, one can be anti-abortion and “pro-choice”… Pro choice takes the government out of the equation… It also recognizes that abortion is a civil right…Bob

  • MaryMenville

    Thank you for such a well-written article! I’m in my mid-20s and working to put myself through school. Without planned parenthood I wouldn’t be able to afford my annual check ups not to mention reproductive health care and family planning services. How is it pro-life to deny me access to preventative care?

  • GordonCash

    “It is inconceivable to me that these attacks on access to family planning are coming from those who seek to reduce abortions in the U.S. or overseas. Surely they know that family planning reduces the need for abortion.”OF COURSE they know that, Rev. Haffner. They’re not stupid. You may denounce me as an old cynic if it pleases you, but I do not believe most “pro-life” people are primarily interested in reducing abortions, if they are interested at all. Witness their almost universal opposition to birth control.The argument is often make in the feminist blogosphere that “pro-lifers” are mainly interested in controlling (read: suppressing) female sexuality. I’m not entirely sure I believe this, but some bloggers, Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon comes immediately to mind, make a good case for it. A few “pro-lifers” actually admit this, but not many.I have no training in psychology, and I frankly don’t know what to make of these people. Are they simply unable to conceptualize the world in terms of causes and effects? (I have met people like that, not necessarily pro-lifers.) Are they so completely out of touch with reality they actually believe women will stop having sex if they do not have access to birth control? (I have met people like that, too.) Even scarier, but to my mind certainly not unthinkable, do they hate women so much they think women who have sex for any other purpose than procreation deserve whatever they get? You will recall the original Swedish title of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was “Men Who Hate Women”. I am afraid there are more of those people out there than I care to imagine.Please share your thoughts, Rev. Haffner and fellow readers.

  • mhoust

    Congress critters, whether Rep or Dem, regardless of the degrees they might hold, like most Americans, are known to be rather short on logic and critical thinking.You want them to approve funding for low-income, impoverished women’s abortions; you have to show a cost comparison between terminating an unwanted pregnancy, and funding the pregnancy to delivery and the costs to the state for alternatives to support that unwanted child.I personally think an abortion is a waste of an opportunity. I know of no woman who really want an abortion. But I recognize that there are some fetuses that should never be born, that there are some women who should never be mothers, that there are some cases where adding another life to the bucket will cause everything to be spilled over and wasted, and that there are not willing and able parents for every child from unwanted pregnancies.

  • BillPa

    Thank you, Rev. Haffner, for demonstrating the morality of family planning services.Shame on Congressmen Pence and the Republican House leadership for trying to villianize people who take care of their sexual health — to avoid STDs, to use birth control to prevent pregnancies one cannot affort, etc. Shame on them for trying to elminate funding for these vital services. If they are not swayed by the morality of helping people in need, they should most certainly be swayed by the economic reality that every $1 spent on family planning saves $4 in the long run.Indeed, funding family planning services like Planned Parenthood is BOTH the moral course of action AND the economically sane course of action.

  • jb1151

    Planned Parenthood alum here — not an employee or volunteer, but a client.PP is a terrific organization. Back in the day, when I was a recent college graduate, unemployed and uninsured, I went to PP for routine gynocological care, which they offered to me for free. Yes, outrageous and horrific, I know. I’ve said for years, the real goal of anti-choice folks isn’t outlawing abortion — it’s outlawing family planning. There was a time that married couples had to fight for the right to use birth control pills (back in the 60s, contraceptives were illegal in Connecticut, and the Supreme Ct had to intervene). I just never thought anti-choice polticians would be so obvious about their true intentions.

  • usapdx

    Since human’s day one almost seven millon years ago to the present day where the human number has reached almost seven billion, how many people can earth feed? Just watch the amount of food produced and the cost in the next few years not to speak of the violence the lack of food will cause as well as mass movement of people. Thoes that preach no birth control, what is their reasons?

  • pgr88

    When you have “ordained ministers” of a so-called “religion” using political cliches of the day like “sexual health,” and “justice” to promote the murder of innocent humans, the only conclusion one can draw is that Satan is alive and well.

  • eezmamata

    Most abortions in our ‘christian nation’ are obtained by christians, what a surprise. The vast majority in fact.Planned Parenthood helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which helps to prevent unwanted abortions.So it’s basically christians who are murdering their babies, to use their own words. They get the abortions.The next time I hear a christian telling me that abortion is murder, I’m going to spit in *his* face.

  • ehmy

    Here’s the thing: Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, I think most people would agree that the ideal situation would be a world where abortions do not happen legally or illegally. So why can’t we go with this common ground? Family Planning programs are the best thing we have going to move toward this ideal because IF YOU PREVENT PREGNANCY, YOU PREVENT ABORTION. And, on top of this, ABSTINENCE IS FAMILY PLANNING TOO. Add to this the financial and logical reality Ben Franklin nailed hundreds of years ago and Dr. Haffner illustrated so well—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.The bottom line to those that think they are serving some sort of moral and financial higher ground by eliminating these programs, you are shooting yourself in the foot on both counts. What really upsets me is that you are shooting the rest of us, too.I get that we are in tough financial times and some difficult choices need to be made. Everyone needs to do their part and make do with less. But the government will only end up spending more money on an increasing population living beneath the poverty level if we don’t have family planning programs.

  • bobnpvine

    Okee dokee…Let’s play, “Let’s Make a Deal”…I mean, if the male dominated anti-abortion movement feels so strongly about abortion then here’s the plan…Any un-wanted pregnancy will be carried to term (at the full expense of the father) ***and*** the father will have to submit to being sterilized…I mean, if we are going to become the Taliban then let’s get it on!!!But this won’t happen… Might of fact, we ***never*** talk about the father… I mean, horros…Beam me up…Bob

  • YEAL9

    From the Guttmacher Institute:The pill fails to protect women 8.7% during the first year of use (from the same reference previously shown). i.e. 0.087 (failure rate)1,020,000 unplanned pregnanciesUnfortunately, Planned Parenthood is not in homes in the morning reminding women to take the Pill. This lack of personal responsibility is one of the leading causes of the high abortion rate in the USA and elsewhere.

  • WmarkW

    I mean, if the male dominated anti-abortion movement feels so strongly about abortion then here’s the plan…Any un-wanted pregnancy will be carried to term (at the full expense of the father) ***and*** the father will have to submit to being sterilized…I think the anti-abortionists would approve of this idea.African-Americans have an abortion rate about four times the rest of the population, and sterilizing black men would be real popular among them.

  • YEAL9

    BO (and D. Haffner) says abortions should be “safe, legal and rare” but says nothing about the basic tenet of proper human conduct i.e. Thou Shalt Not Kill. And where is BO’s (and D. Haffer’s) sense of indignation that abortions are not rare and that these acts of horror demean the Golden Rule considering that he (and D. Haffner) says he is a Christian. And where is his (and D. Haffner’s) sense of indignation that women who use the Pill do not use it properly resulting in an failure rate of 8.7% as per the Guttmacher Institute statistics. Using these and other Guttmacher Institute data, this failure of women to use the Pill properly results in ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year. And the annual abortion rate in the USA is?? ~1,000,000 as per the CDC.And do males use condoms properly? No, as said failure rate for this birth “control” method is 17.4%!! Again using Guttmacher data, said failure rate results in another ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year. The Guttmacher Institute notes also that the perfect use of the pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).Bottom line: BO (and D. Haffner) is still not aware of the basics of birth control and still remains the leader of the Immoral Majority and will remain so until he (and D. Haffner) respects and protects human life in all its forms and who at least emphasizes the proper use of birth control methods from his “bully pulpit”!!!And he will save us a lot of pain, agony and money in the process!!

  • Chagasman

    Republicans hate regulation of corporations but love regulation of individuals. Republicans love unborn fetuses, but hate poor little children.What a bunch of hypocritical idiots. Leave people and their rights and freedoms alone and focus on the real problems for a change.

  • marianshapiro

    Beautifully and passionately stated by Rev. Haffner. If Planned Parenthood, the biggest birth control provider, is defunded, there will certainly be more need for abortion. We know that anywhere women don’t have access to safe legal abortion services, they have illegal and dangerous or self induced abortions. That’s how many women died before 1973 when abortion became legal. Americans do not support what the Republicans are trying to do. Americans support education and medical reproductive health services for low income people. That’s what Planned Parenthood has been providing for almost a century. Thanks Debra Haffner!!!

  • bruce18

    Dear Debra,