Not on Our Watch
Writer(s): Brandi Terry
On the morning of March 8, hundreds of protestors swarmed the lawn of the Indiana Statehouse, brandishing bright pink signs with slogans like I stand with Planned Parenthood and Dont take away my birth control. Men and women, people of all ages and races stood in solidarity to support the biggest reproductive healthcare provider in the state. Betty Cockrum, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana took the podium to encourage protestors to keep fighting.
The speakers were so powerful that you could feel the unity amongst the ralliers, Leigha Ingermann, sophomore nursing major, said of the rally. It was amazing and it made me feel like I was a part of something a lot bigger than me.
These people were protesting House bill 1205 (HB 1205), which proposes ending state funding for any entity that performs abortions, or controls centers or clinics where abortions are performed.
Although this bill applies to many agencies, Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) would be the most impacted. PPIN also brings in revenue from patient fees and donations, but a full 13 percent (roughly $3 million) of its revenue is from government contracts and grants, according to the organizations 2010 annual report. If HB 1205 passes, this large chunk of funding will be eliminated, possibly meaning dire consequences for Planned Parenthood.
According to Indiana Rep. Ron Bacon, co-author of the bill, this bill is not intended to shut down PPIN. Planned Parenthood serves a very good purpose in the state and can continue that, but abortions should not be part of that purpose, he says. The very simple thing to me is to stop doing abortions, and they can stay in business.
Much of the controversy surrounding federal funds and abortions comes from the Hyde Amendment. Part of the Department of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare Appropriation Act of 1976, the Hyde Amendment says that federal dollars are not to be used to fund abortions. The amendment prohibits Medicaid, the military, the Peace Corps and federal prisons from covering abortions. In 1993, Congress revised the amendment to include exceptions in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the pregnant womans life. Shortly thereafter, President Bill Clinton formally extended the Hyde Amendment, saying that states must fund all abortions that are eligible for federal funds.
This amendment is very specific and can put providers in a jam. Most clinics and healthcare providers avoid this sticky area by keeping federal and state funds separate from other funds, such as donations. Donations alone are used to fund abortion services; state and federal funds are used for other services. In her letter in the 2010 annual PPIN report, Cockrum made this clear. The government funding in question is about prevention, she says. None of it supports abortion. Not a penny. It pays for basic health care services, such as Pap tests that screen for cancer, breast exams, STD testing and treatment, and birth control.
For Indiana Rep. Matt Ubelhor, the bills primary author, there is little difference between funding agencies that provide abortions and directly funding the abortions themselves. Any time we take care of any part of those abortion providers expenses, we are therefore financing abortions, he told the Indianapolis Star in March. If we take care of the paper clips, if we take care of the roof on the building, we are providing taxpayer dollars to provide that service.
PPIN provides much more than abortion services. They also provide access to birth control and condoms, gynecological exams, STI testing and treatment, pregnancy tests and safe-sex education. In 2010, only 3.5 percent of all services PPIN provided were abortions. The overwhelming majority were preventative services, such as exams and birth control.
Bacon says that even if PPIN were to shut down, which is not the intended outcome, these services can be found elsewhere. The things that it does provide can be provided by other agencies in the state of Indiana, the same as Planned Parenthood, without any cost to the recipient; so those folks would not be at risk, he says. Its provided through agencies that do not do abortion services.
Ingerman isnt comfortable using others for these services. Planned Parenthood has always proved to be a safe and caring environment, and Im not about to go to a place in which I feel uncomfortable to deal with these sensitive and emotional subjects, she says.
A majority of the people who utilize PPIN are uninsured women. According to the 2010 annual report, 59 percent of PPIN users are at or below the poverty line. Of those people, 79 percent are below the poverty line by 150 percent. According to Cockrum, these people would be left vulnerable if the bill were to pass. This bill would cut off health care to 22,000 low-income women and men who depend on it from a provider they trust, she says.
According to Beth Kelsey, assistant professor of nursing at Ball State, this puts women at great risk for cervical cancer. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, 11,000 American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. More than 4,000 of these women eventually die from the disease. Screenings are the only way to detect the cancer. Women who rely on Planned Parenthood for these screenings will be put at risk.
Services provided are so important for women and families in Indiana, and its very worrisome to think what will happen if it passes, Kelsey says. Its limiting womens ability to control their bodies and reproductive health and get services they need to be healthy.
Not only would these women be vulnerable to more health issues, but they would also be vulnerable to perpetuating the cycle of poverty. There is currently no plan to increase or expand federal or state assistance for impoverished mothers or children. If people want to really lobby and try to get rid of abortion, and they were going to do a full package deal to provide assistance to the mothers and the children and move the children we have out of poverty, I could at least see it as a comprehensive plan, Heather Adams, assistant professor of psychology at Ball State University says. Right now, its like bits and pieces, and none of it makes any coherent sense.
This is an idea also endorsed by PPIN. At the statehouse rally, PPIN board chair Deborah Simon spoke to Indiana lawmakers. Rather than cutting health care and telling us what to do with our bodies, maybe lawmakers can focus on things that will make Indiana better, she said. My message to legislators? Get out of our doctors offices and fix the economy!
If HB 1205 passes and abortions are no longer available at PPIN, will women stop having them? Not according to Adams. She says its important to remember that the main reason behind making abortions easier to access was that many women were dying from unsafe abortionswhich is still a risk. Theyre not going to stop getting the abortions. If I feel I have to have this or its going to ruin my life, Ill find a way to do it, she says. Adams says that women who have the resources may go to another country to have an abortion. Those who dont may turn to more risky avenues.
Despite the attention it has drawn, HB 1205 is just one of nine bills currently in the Indiana legislature that PPIN calls anti-choice. PPIN is not alone, however; Planned Parenthood of America is also under federal attack. U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) is currently pushing for a bill that would eliminate the entire Title X program, which is a federal grant program that provides comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. This would essentially block all federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
But it doesnt end there. In February, Georgia Rep. Bobby Franklin proposed a state law mandating that all miscarriages be investigated. If the miscarriage could not be proven to be from natural causes, the woman could be charged with a felony of prenatal murder. Franklin also introduced a bill that would mandate that in rape cases, the person filing charges would be referred to as an accuser as opposed to a victim (but not in cases of robbery, attempted murder, assault or any other crimes). South Dakota Rep. Phil Jensen sponsored a bill that would place the killing of abortion providers under the heading of justifiable homicide.
Counties in Maryland are opting to cut funding for Head Start centers, claiming that women should be getting married and staying home with their children instead of sending them to Head Start. The Office of Head Start, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides grants to agencies for Head Start programs. These programs provide child development services to impoverished children, focusing on developing early reading, math and cognitive skills.
Is this a national assault on women? If youre a woman, and youre astute and are paying attention to whats going on nationwide, yeah, you should pretty much be sweating bullets, Adams says. The rationale that women should be staying at home and raising children is certainly an attack on my right to have a career.
Women are not taking this attack lying down. Planned Parenthood is fighting back, traveling the country in a pink bus to hold rallies that encourage women to Stand With Planned Parenthood.
Congressional allies of Planned Parenthood are also taking a stance, like Indiana Sen. Karen Tallian, who attended the March 8 rally. We will not, in a few years, lose what it has taken generations to accomplish, she says. Not on our watch.Return to top