Column: In the aftermath of terror, Congress must recognize the importance of Planned Parenthood

This essential organization does far more than just abortions.

On Friday, Nov. 27, a man opened fire a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He shot and killed a police officer and two civilians, while injuring nine others, including four other officers. A law enforcement official said the shooter uttered the words “no more baby parts” while being arrested, leading to the conclusion that the attack was politically motivated. He is currently being held without bond, facing a first-degree murder charge.

There have been differing responses in the political sphere. President Barack Obama has called for more stringent gun control laws. Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were the first to offer their condolences for the victims on Twitter. They also used the time to bring up the importance of defending Planned Parenthood. Republican candidates took quite a bit longer to respond to the event. Some candidates offered condolences on social media to the victims, but they avoid the specific topic of abortion.

Presidential candidates have recently been debating eliminating the government’s financial support of Planned Parenthood. Many House Republicans are angry at the organization because of it offers abortion services and because of videos that were released several months ago that show Planned Parenthood officials having a discussion about selling aborted fetuses for medical research. Planned Parenthood said these videos were heavily edited by anti-abortion activists.

Congress needs to realize that Planned Parenthood is a necessary part of the government health care system. According to the Planned Parenthood website, there are around 700 Planned Parenthood health centers across the country that provide education and care to young people and adults. In fact, only around 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood relate to abortion. Most of what they do is “preventative, primary care,” which includes screening for cancer, testing and treating sexually transmitted infections and preventing unintended pregnancies with contraception. Their educational programs help 1.5 million people in the U.S. each year.

Abortion services at Planned Parenthood are an important component of the organization as well, and they should not be ignored. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of legal abortions in the U.S., according to BBC News. Having access to safe and legal abortion services is a necessity for many women. Planned Parenthood reported that 3 in 10 women have an abortion in the U.S. by the time they turn 45. Furthermore, these legal services help save the lives of women needing an abortion. In 1965, when abortion was illegal in the U.S., 17 percent of deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth were related to illegal abortions. Today, there is “one death for every one million vacuum aspiration abortions at eight or fewer weeks (and) 8.9 deaths after 20 weeks’ gestation,” according to Planned Parenthood.

It is vital that the government chooses not to defund Planned Parenthood on the basis of personal opinions. Our weak sexual education programs will deteriorate even more, and services that help prevent life-threatening diseases and unintended pregnancies will be less readily-available to those who need them. This recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic should inspire us to protect the organization even more.

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