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Planned Parenthood in middle of funding debate

April 08, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey
  • As lawmakers battle over Planned Parenthood funding, supporters rally in Washington on Thursday.
As lawmakers battle over Planned Parenthood funding, supporters rally… (Reuters )

Planned Parenthood is yet again at the center of a political maelstrom. Republican lawmakers want to cut funding to the organization, or else they will not agree to a budget that has spending cuts of more than $30 billion. Defenders of Planned Parenthood say the cuts are dangerous for women’s health. 

Huffington Post frames the current conflict this way: “The United States government is on the verge of shutting down over a dispute about subsidized pap smears...”

Perhaps it's time for a quick look at an organization that everyone, rightly or wrongly, thinks they know.

The organization was founded in 1916 when Margaret Sanger, a nurse in New York, opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn. Contraception, and obtaining information about contraception, was then illegal under what was called the Comstock laws. But Sanger’s arrest in 1936 -- for ordering birth control products in the mail -- led to a court decision that rewrote these laws. That ruling declared that contraceptive devices and birth control were no longer “obscene.”

Planned Parenthood now has 800 health centers in the United States. The most controversial services are their in-clinic abortions and emergency contraception services. But the organization also offers breast exams, cervical cancer screening and vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases.

The organization’s president, Cecile Richards, had this to say about the latest controversy:

"It is truly unacceptable that a small group with an extreme political agenda is forcing a shutdown of the United States government over a dangerous proposal that would bar women from getting the lifesaving healthcare they need — breast exams, Pap tests, HIV tests and more. The American people expect their leaders to fix the economy and solve real problems, not shut down the government,” said Richards in a news release

Speaking to the Huffington Post, she said the cuts would hit rural communities especially hard: "More than 70% of our health centers, more than 800 centers in the country, are located in rural America or communities that are medically underserved communities. That's what's getting lost here."

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