Even though universal access to reproductive health was, along with reducing maternal mortality, on everyone's global agenda (MDG #5), there's been a lot of controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood in the US senate lately.

You know, Planned Parenthood? The health care, sex-ed and info provider for millions of women, men and adolescents all over America?

That's the one!

Before congress makes other attempts to cut Planned Parenthood funding, let's get the facts straight on what PP actually does and what it means to people all over the US.

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood is all about abortions

Image: Flickr: Timothy Krause

A former senator of Arizona claimed that 90% of Planned Parenthood's services were geared towards abortion services.

Man, that statistic was way off. Abortion services only account for 3%! 80% of what Planned Parenthood does relates to the prevention of unintended pregnancy through contraception and education. 

It's true that Planned Parenthood performs the largest number of abortions of any reproductive health care provider, which is partly where the myth comes from; but it is also the largest provider with over 700 clinics scattered around the US. 

Myth #2: Most of their abortion services are performed on adolescents

Image: Flickr: Timothy Krause

I admit, my understanding of who got abortions was heavily influenced by the movie Juno, but I was surprised that only 26% of Planned Parenthood clients who had received an abortion were teenagers, meaning that 74% are 20 years of age and older. 

“It doesn’t just happen to young people, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with irresponsibility,” the president of PP, Rhode Island said in a press release.

I was even more surprised that 60% of women in the US who choose to get an abortion have already given birth to a child. 

Myth #3 All of PP's services are pregnancy-focused and woman-focused

Image: Flickr: Paul Keller

This one's understandable. I mean, it's what PP's known for. Evidently, they provide a plethora of services, ranging from over 500,000 breast exams to detect signs of breast cancer in women, to testicular and colon cancer screenings for men. 

Combating sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, is also a big part of what they do. Men, women and teenagers have made use of the 4.5 million tests and treatments that have been provided by PP. 

Myth #4: Their government-funded, extensive education programs aren't doing anything

Image: Flickr: THINK Global School

PP is leading the conversation on sexual education--through sex-ed and outreach, they've allegedly helped reduce teen pregnancies to the lowest they've been in 20 years! They must be doing something right.

They've also reached over 1.5 million adolescents and families, and trained over 18,000 teachers, school staff and youth counsellors in the process.

Although the immediate effects aren't super apparent, the lead educator of the program sums up the importance of education well: “Young people cannot be expected to make safe, healthy decisions if they don’t have the complete range of information.” 

Myth #5: Taxpayer dollars are going towards PP abortions

Image: Flickr: Pictures of Money

That's actually illegal--and I'm pretty sure a health care provider as big as Planned Parenthood wouldn't get away with that.

By law, the federal government can't pay for abortion services unless the cases involve rape, incest or endanger the mother's life. This isn't new either. Otherwise known as the Hyde Amendment, the law has been enforced since 1977.

Unfortunately, uninsured, low-income women are most harshly affected by this.

Myth #6: PP is limited to the US

Image: Flickr: United States Mission Geneva

False: their reach has been expanding overseas for the past 40 years! People in 13 different countries across Africa and Latin America have access to PP's educational services, contraception, unsafe abortion treatment and abortion services.

PP claims to be dedicated to improving global access to reproductive health care.

What's the bigger picture?

Being able to access reproductive health care is a concern worldwide--one that could save lives and empower millions of women.

What distinguishes Planned Parenthood's services is that they're hygienic, safe and non-discriminatory. They're available to people all over the US, which is a right that's denied to many people across the globe, including almost 22 million women who experience unsafe abortions each year.

Reproductive health care is vital. If you agree, TAKE ACTION NOW by calling on leaders in Iceland and Uruguay to attend the Global Citizen Festival and make commitments that support and empower girls and women everywhere. 

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.


Defeat Poverty

6 of the Biggest Myths About Planned Parenthood in the US

By Yuanyuan Kelly