Nureen Khadr is a senior international studies major.
Last week, the Planned Parenthood (PP) funding debate came to campus in the form of USF Students for Life representatives, a pro-life organization on campus, displaying a series of six banners claiming that PP has a “dirty secret,” which includes abortion quotas and baby part sales. I observed the bright pink signs, listing statistic after statistic, give many students pause as they stopped to read the information advertised in the first floor of our University Center. The representatives of Students for Life took many opportunities to thrust flyers with more information into the unreceptive hands of passersby.
While I myself am pro-choice, it was not their presence that bothered me; it was what was on the banners. I meticulously read through every single one and found highly-manipulated statistics, and many falsified ones, strategically bolded to draw attention and create the shock factor that the representatives were looking for to drive their point home. Dear Students for Life: you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own set of facts, and the set of “facts” you are aiming to disseminate to the student population at USF only harms those that are looking for safe and accessible resources for protection and health services. With college students being four times as likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases, the effects of misinformation is a detriment to the obtainability of health resources, especially since being a Jesuit university means that contraception is not freely available to students.
Unlike the first banner suggests, 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services are not abortions. The notion that women only seek out PP’s services for abortions is highly inaccurate, and disregards the reality that it provides 1.13 million pregnancy tests every year, as well as cancer screenings, contraception services, family planning counseling, and adoption referrals.
A different banner advertises PP as a merchant that sells “baby parts”. This stems from the myth that PP sells fetal tissue for profit. There are no records that substantiate PP turning a profit from selling fetal tissue, although there are videos that do portray employees of PP speaking of fetal tissue quite bluntly. PP does publicize the fact that, per patient, they earn $30 to $100 from biomedical research companies as a reimbursement for the cost of collecting, storing, and transporting the tissue, which, “in reality…constitutes as a loss” for the organization, according to Sherilyn J. Sawyer, biorepository director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The donation of fetal tissue can be considered a controversial topic, but it is also naive to call for a halt of such practice. Literally any person who has ever been vaccinated or treated for a disease like diabetes and muscular dystrophy can thank decades of scientific research using fetal tissue. Many women generally choose to donate the fetal tissue, with the consultation of their doctor.
Another dangerous claim the banners make is that the birth control that PP provides is “poor quality” and faulty. Rather than deterring students from seeking resources that would enable them to afford contraception and practice safe sex, we should all be encouraging our peers to take ownership of their body and what might happen to it. 18 states surveyed by the Congressional Budget Office showed that PP helps provide access to 40 percent of women who take birth control. 11 other states stated that half of women who use contraceptives got them from PP. Believing that women can turn elsewhere for such services is privileged and very untrue, with 20 percent of women being uninsured and without access to healthcare providers.
Students for Life at USF must consider the consequences of spreading false information. I encourage you to fact check before exposing your peers to lies, when they should be able to trust material given to them on campus. Defunding Planned Parenthood would be neither conducive to women’s health in our country, nor would it benefit our country’s budget, as Medicaid would have to increase its spending by $650 million to compensate for the loss of services that PP provides.
This is a serious debate that requires level-headed arguments that do not perpetuate unnecessarily shocking statistics and images without context and sources. One only needs to look to the shooting that happened at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic this past Friday, ending in the death of three individuals, in what was clearly a response to the inaccurate knowledge bolstered by anti-abortionists.