President-elect Donald Trump and his GOP backers in Congress have made it clear that they intend to defund Planned Parenthood, virtually denying nearly 5million women (as well as men) throughout the United States access to much-needed healthcare services, including breast cancer screenings, Pap smears, and reproductive and contraceptive counseling, and education, each year
In fact, Planned Parenthood provides more than 4.2 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including more in excess of 650,000 HIV tests. Only 3% of their services actually involve providing abortions, although the far right likes to give the impression that that is their primary purpose.
Interestingly, this push to deny women their right to “choose” and control their own bodies comes at a time when abortion rates in the US are the lowest they have been since 1974, the first year after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v Wade. According to a report issued yesterday by the Guttmacher Institute (the only organization to actually count all abortions in the country), the number of abortions actually dropped by 12.5% among women aged 15-44 between 2011 (1,06 million) and 2014 (926,000 recorded abortions). The highest year since the procedure was legalized was 1.6 million abortions performed in 1990.
The reason for the decline (in all but 6-states, where the rate actually rose somewhat) was attributed by study authors Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman to two main factors. The first is that their women have more access to more affordable and longer-lasting contraceptives that cut down on the number of unintended pregnancies. In fact, Planned Parenthood health centers claim that “80% of patients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancy, which in turn has helped prevent approximately 579,000 unplanned pregnancies annually.”
The second reason (unfortunately) is due to the fact that a number of states have forced the closure of some clinics making it extremely hard for women there to gain access to the procedure. Even where services may still be obtained, new laws in 43 states now forbid most abortions after 20-weeks of gestation, except when necessary to save the mother’s life. 19 states have laws in effect that ban “partial-birth” abortion. 3 of these laws apply only to post-viability abortions (involving the fetus’s ability to survive outside its mother’s womb).
The Guttmacher Institute also notes that abortions must only be performed by a licensed physician in 38-states, while 18 states require an abortion to be performed in a hospital after a specified point in the pregnancy.18 states also demand that a 2nd doctor is involved after a specified point.
In the meantime, only 17 states provide their own funds (as opposed to federal money) to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions for Medicaid enrollees in the state. Similar funding, however, is forbidden in 32 states as well as the District of Columbia except in those cases when federal funds are available such as when the woman’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. South Dakota limits funding to cases of life endangerment only contrary to federal requirements.
How much pending repeal of the Affordable Care Act will effect the abortion rate still remains to be seen. At present individual state insurance exchanges in 11 states already restrict abortion coverage in private plans, (primarily limiting coverage only to when the woman’s life would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term), although the majority of others permit the purchase of additional abortion coverage at an additional cost. Even so, all but 5 states currently permit individual health care providers to refuse to participate in an abortion, while all but 8allow hospitals and clinics to refuse to perform abortions for religious reasons.
Other restrictions imposed by varying states include mandating specific waiting periods as well as counseling before women can obtain the procedure, as well as parental consent in the case of pregnant minors.