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Getting the facts right

This past September, Congressional Republicans obsessed over defunding Planned Parenthood, a reproductive health program that came under controversy after videos surfaced of conversations on fetal tissue donation. Many have threatened to shut down the government (again) if Congress attempts to pass a budget bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. Congress, however, would be shooting themselves in the foot over many misconceptions about Planned Parenthood funding.

First, the United States very much restricts Planned Parenthood from giving abortions. According to CNS News, Planned Parenthood received $540.6 million in federal taxpayer money in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. However, by law Planned Parenthood is not allowed to use federal money to administer abortions. Title X, which is one of the main sources of funding for Planned Parenthood, specifically states, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, that abortions cannot be funded by federal money. The other main source of funding for Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, specifically states under the Hyde Amendment that “abortions can only be used in cases of rape, incest, or the endangerment to the life of the mother.”

With that being said, Planned Parenthood did administer abortions. According to CNS News, in 2012, Planned Parenthood administered 327,166 abortions, or three percent of services. This statistic may seem daunting, but as a percentage of the US population, it is .1 percent of the 318 million people in the US.

In fact, Congressional Republicans should advocate for more funding for Planned Parenthood. According to Vox, 36 percent of women who rely on contraceptives to prevent pregnancies do so at a Planned Parenthood clinic. This amounts to 2.5 million women. Vox estimates that in 2013 Planned Parenthood prevented 345,000 more abortions, or twice the amount. Although there’s no clear connection between the funding provided and the amount of abortions, Vox does assert that “access to birth control reduces unplanned pregnancies and 40 percent of unplanned pregnancies result in abortion.”

Even if Republicans succeed in shutting down the government, it most likely will not help anyone. In 2013, after Republicans held the government hostage and shut down the government over Obamacare funding, a Washington Post/ABC News Poll showed that 63 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable view of Republicans over a favorable view compared to 32 percent who had a favorable view. Similarly, the Tea Party had a 59 percent to 26 percent unfavorable view over a favorable one, both showing that almost twice as many of those surveyed had an unfavorable view than those who had a favorable one.

Similarly, Republicans were unfavorable after the 2011 debt crisis after they stubbornly resisted raising taxes. According to a CBS News poll, 71 percent of those surveyed viewed Republicans unfavorably, including over half of Republican respondents.

Although fighting to defund Planned Parenthood may be a good talking point, in reality, the federal government does not fund abortions, except in dangerous situations such as those of rape, incest and endangerment to the mother. Even if Republican leaders were able to shut down the government in an appeal to defund Planned Parenthood, it would most likely hurt their chances of maintaining their majorities in both houses and possibly their chances to take the White House in the 2016 election.