Editorial

Recent rumours depicting Planned Parenthood as the big bad wolf has forced the Ottawa branch’s president, Lauren Dobson-Hughes, to make a plea to the public for support.

“For 50 years, we’ve been there for you, every step of the way. Now we need your help urgently. Planned Parenthood Ottawa (PPO) is suffering,” wrote Dobson-Hughes. “You’ve heard of the recent attacks on women’s healthcare in the States, but we’re feeling the impact too.”

In her message to the public, Dobson-Hughes elaborates on the attack that has migrated north of the 49th parallel.
“Planned Parenthood is under attack by people who oppose healthcare for women and the trans community, who don’t want youth to get the education they need, and who dedicate themselves to cutting our funding every way they can. They are targeting our funders,” said Dobson-Hughes.

Several highly-edited videos of interactions with Planned Parenthood employees in the United States has prompted right-wing politicians to investigate the organization, which is accused of illegally selling fetal organs. In fact, the organization legally charges clients for shipping and handling of the delicate tissues, but does not make a profit.

However, the fault doesn’t lie solely with private groups or citizens who ideologically disagree with Planned Parenthood, but also Ottawa Public Health, which has cut funding to the organization by ten per cent for two years running. As a result, the organization has had to turn away services to women in need, said Dobson-Hughes, citing an example where they were not able to help a woman who was being forced into an abortion by an abusive partner.

Earlier cuts in 2011 forced the group to shut down a youth education program on STIs, when the threat of the infections was at a ten-year high. These cuts can have devastating effects on women and members of the trans community, most who come from poorer backgrounds.

The news may prompt many of us to review our personal opinions on abortion. While many provincial health care programs cover the controversial procedure financially, to this day there exists no law either banning or guaranteeing the right to an abortion in Canada.

No matter your opinion on the sensitive topic, the major problem with attacking Planned Parenthood because of your views on abortion, is that the organization’s Ottawa branch doesn’t even perform abortions.

Here are a few numbers that might make the issue clearer. Zero per cent of the zero abortions performed at Planned Parenthood Ottawa’s non-existent abortion services were financed by Canadian tax dollars.

Let’s break it down by year. In 2012, Planned Parenthood Ottawa performed zero abortions, compared to zero in 2013, and zero in 2014. Data has not yet been released for 2015, but it’s widely expected to rise by zero per cent to zero.

Planned Parenthood Ottawa does provide referrals for abortion, which some might feel is just as bad, but they should also know that the organization provides information on other options for expectant mothers, like adoption.

Another common excuse is how the organization is a close ally of the American Planned Parenthood, which does provide clinical services, including abortions. The procedure accounts for a whopping three per cent of Planned Parenthood in the United States’ services, with the remaining 97 per cent dedicated to breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV tests, and contraception.

Dobson-Hughes highlighted the most disturbing part of the latest crusade against Planned Parenthood in North America. “It’s not about abortion. They oppose our health care,” she said.

“Part of the reason for us going public is we want people to push back and say we are not controversial. This is mainstream, evidence-based support. I want funders or potential funders to hear this,” said Dobson-Hughes.

We know why abortion is so controversial, but what’s so controversial about women’s health care? And more importantly, why do we treat the two interchangeably?

The way we talk about women’s health care makes it seem like every woman who steps into a sexual health clinic decides, “This place does abortions? well I was going to go through with this pregnancy, but I might as well since I’ve already made the trip, right?”

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that members of the Canadian public have spurned vital information about sex. Last year Ontario parents protested the new provincial sex ed curriculum, fearing it was too much at too young an age, despite the wide-ranging support of experts.

This comes down to an age-old stigma against sex that has propagated the idea that sexual health care, unlike other branches, is a choice that an arbitrary number of people can withhold from the rest of the population. For some reason, sexually-themed Freudian psychology holds more weight in the public’s eye despite having been mostly disapproved, than the importance of contraception and cancer screenings.

We need to start framing the situation accurately,  that those who oppose organizations like Planned Parenthood aren’t against abortion, they’re against healthcare. For those of you that are huffing and puffing, hoping to bring Planned Parenthood down, make sure the wolf is actually there, before you start telling people how scary it is.