This week, Planned Parenthood, a nationwide nonprofit that provides sexual and reproductive health care to Americans, announced that it has voluntarily left the Title X federal funding program for family planning groups in response to the Trump-Pence administration’s restrictive (read: anti-abortion) policy changes.
The departure is intended to be an act of resistance, though it is far from voluntary in the true sense of the term: PP acting president Alexis McGill Johnson claims the group “will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients,” reports The Washington Post.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, Planned Parenthood is being forced out of the Title X program, meaning people across the country who are already struggling to make ends meet might not be able to access the care they need.
Absolutely devastating. #IStandWithPP #ProtectX https://t.co/UHjIKvhKq5
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) August 19, 2019
“Our patients deserve to make their own health care decisions,” Johnson added, “not to be forced to have Donald Trump or Mike Pence make those decisions for them.”
PP’s exit from Title X means the organization will struggle even more than it already has to reach vulnerable patients—people with low incomes, people of color, LGBTQ people, people living outside major metropolitan hubs or in relative geographic isolation. In other words, people who need the group’s health care the most. But don’t just take it from me; take it from reporters, editors, and op-ed writers at The Post, The New York Times, and more.
Prior to this week’s decision, PP reportedly served some 40% of Title X patients nationwide. It’s also worth noting that Title X already barred clinics from using federal funds to provide abortions.
The departure also means that Trump can claim he successfully helped “defund PP,” one of the key promises of his 2016 campaign platform, and a move that will likely make him even more popular with conservative, staunchly anti-abortion voters in the 2020 election cycle.
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Three years out from that fateful election night, the Trump-Pence administration’s anti-LGBTQ record is no secret. It includes attempts to symbolically “erase” the LGBTQ community, specifically transgender Americans; barring trans and gender nonconforming Americans from serving in the U.S. military; and drastically cutting federal funding to HIV/AIDS research and health care. That is by no means a comprehensive list of its current offenses, but if you’re reading this, you probably already know that.
What you may not know, however, is that this litany of attacks on the queer community actually includes limiting access to sexual and reproductive health care. That means STI and STD testing, routine sexual wellness exams, and different forms of contraception, including condoms and birth control. It also includes access to safe and legal abortions.
Pregnancy—planned or unplanned, wanted or unwanted—affects cisgender women, but it also affects nonbinary people, gender nonconforming people, transgender men, and anybody else with a uterus who is physically capable of getting pregnant. Calling these severe restrictions on PP services—yes, that includes abortions—a “women’s issue” isn’t just inaccurate; it’s dangerously misleading.
Using binary language to discuss access to safe, legal abortions perpetuates the outdated ideology that so-called “women’s issues” only affect cisgender women. It subtly reinforces schisms that already exist between men and women, queer or heterosexual, transgender or cisgender.
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Worse, it implicitly places the onus on women to demonstrate and lobby against these strikes on their physical autonomy. If “women’s issues” affect cis women and only cis women, why should anybody who doesn’t identify as such—or isn’t capable of getting pregnant—join the fight to protect abortion access?
Defending the vital work of organizations like PP that provide routine sexual wellness exams, contraception, and access to safe and legal abortions is an LGBTQ issue. And it’s about time all members of the community regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation treat it as such.
We joke a lot (probably too often) about living in an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale—because laughter has always been a coping mechanism against darkness and discomfort. Gallows humor is a shield, sure, but it provides little forward motion in the long run.
There comes a time when we all must pick up our swords—our pens, our phones, our wallets, our running shoes, whatever—and fight back against attacks on our freedom and well-being. Arguably, it’s been that “time” for too long already, but the point still stands: If you’ve been waiting for your call to action, consider this a rallying cry.