Hands off My Pills: OC Planned Parenthood Loses Funding

Whenever it seems like Orange County can’t get any more conservative than it already is, it goes ahead and surprises me. The Orange County Board of Supervisors recently voted to suspend the county’s education contract with Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions, despite the fact that county money is not used to perform them.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Supervisor Bill Campbell said that he “can’t be an advocate of what Planned Parenthood is.”

What is that exactly, Mr. Campbell? It is an organization that in the last 40 years has provided countless services (not just abortions) to women and teen girls in order to ensure their reproductive and sexual health, such as providing birth control and sex education. Campbell, on the other hand, only believes that Planned Parenthood actively promotes abortion.

“Most organizations [unlike Planned Parenthood] try to explain to women every option there is available, and there’s a nuance to these explanations, and that would be protecting the health of the mother and the child,” Campbell said.

I decided to search the Planned Parenthood Web site to see exactly how they were supposedly promoting abortions. On the Web site, they list three pregnancy options for women: abortion, adoption and parenting. They suggest “reading and learning about each” in order to “get the facts” and “weigh the benefits and risks of each one.” They also shared these words of encouragement for women: “Only you can decide which choice is right for you. But women often find it helpful to talk it through with someone else. You may choose to talk with your partner or a trusted family member or friend. Pick someone you think will be supportive. It’s important to remember that you get to decide who is a part of your decision-making process.”

Clearly Planned Parenthood doesn’t so much promote abortion as offer it as an option. However, simply giving women the choice of an abortion at all was enough for the board to pull funding for education and other purposes. The supervisors have decided that the money that would have gone to Planned Parenthood should instead go to Birth Choice Health Clinics, an organization based in Santa Ana that describes itself as a “pro-life ministry” and uses ultrasound viewings and biblical material to counsel women.

Its founder and chief executive, Kathleen Eaton, started the organization after she had an abortion herself at a Planned Parenthood clinic. The Los Angeles Times reported that Eaton spoke with staffers in Campbell’s office about possibly taking on the county contract for health education and that they set up a meeting for April 6 to discuss the issue further.

Instead of Planned Parenthood, the county will most likely be using “Teen Integrity,” a Birth Choice program that educates teens on “the emotional, spiritual, physical and social benefits of saving sex for marriage. Teen Integrity educates youth on the risks of premarital sex and empowers them to make positive choices about their bodies and futures.” The Web site for “Teen Integrity” lists various reasons why waiting until marriage to have sex is best, including that “waiting will increase your self-respect” and “waiting means a clear conscience (no guilt) and peace of mind (no conflicts, worrying or regret).”

Those are a lot of judgments to make for an organization that can’t even give accurate information on condom usage and effectiveness. The Birth Choice Web site states that the risk of becoming pregnant using condoms only is about a 20 percent chance in a year. In fact, the number, as reported in a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and also a study by Brown University, is closer to 2 percent. If a couple uses condoms consistently and correctly, in one year, they have a 98-percent chance of remaining pregnancy free.

That seems like a big mistake to make when reporting numbers, doesn’t it? Not only that, but Birth Choice also gives the effectiveness rate of HIV infection when using a condom at 85 percent. This is inconsistent with numerous studies, including one reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on a two-year endeavor study of 124 discordant couples (ones in which one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative) in Europe that reported consistent use of latex condoms. Findings showed that not one of the uninfected partners became infected.

For organizations to receive our taxpayer dollars to educate the youth about safe sex (or should I say abstinence), you’d think that it would be important to at least give accurate information. In the end, it seems that neither Birth Choice nor Teen Integrity are giving people many “options” at all. Birth Choice simply wants mothers to have their babies because of the personal beliefs of its staff, and Teen Integrity is purposely misleading youth in order to reform society by its own moral standards.

None of this seems right or even “moral” in any way. I am still shocked that any county, let alone the one I live in, could decide to support either of these biased organizations. Pulling funding from Planned Parenthood prevents it from performing its other, non-abortion related educational functions. Less funding means less access to free birth control, HIV and other sexually transmitted disease screenings, as well as counseling and family planning assistance.

The board has done more than simply cut funding from the organization. In fact, they have demonized an organization that has done nothing but fight for the rights of women to be healthy and to make their own decisions based on what is best for them and their families.
This is a dangerous decision that the supervisors have made. It is solely based on their personal moral beliefs (separation of church and state, anyone?). Unfortunately, it is the county and its inhabitants who will ultimately have to pay for it in the end.

Lila Kooklan is a fourth-year political science major. She can be reached at lkooklan@uci.edu.