The Planned Parenthood Battle Part 4

It was the victory cheer heard across the country: on August 1st, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would be requiring that all US health insurance companies cover birth control without a copay.  It was a huge victory for feminists and advocates of women’s health, a milestone decision in a long battle over a woman’s right to control her own fertility that has waged for decades.  Handed down from the federal government, it was one of the strongest statements we have seen to date on this issue: women have the right to control their bodies.

We had not even caught our breath after the HHS ruling when Planned Parenthood won another victory, this time in Kansas.  For those of you who have been following the battle over Planned Parenthood, this is the SECOND victory PP has won in this state.  The first time, a federal judged ruled that the states arbitrary and excessive demands for abortion clinics would not be allowed to be imposed on PP, which prevented the shutdown of 3 abortion clinics in the state.  And on August 2, a federal judge put an injunction on a law that would defund Planned Parenthood in that state.  If the defunding decision were allowed to stand, PP of Kansas and Mid-Missouri would face a loss of $333000 to their Kansas clinics, forcing shutdowns and increasing cost and travel time and reducing services for 5700 patients in outlying areas such as Hays.  In light of the HHS ruling, it is obvious that this would not be considered acceptable.

But the battle within the United States is not yet over.  Planned Parenthood remains defunded in Wisconsin and North Carolina, and sits at the bottom of the lists eligible for funding in Texas.  Duquesne University, which has a Catholic affiliation, is suing an insurance company called Highmark, Inc., for cover the costs of contraception (source: Feministing, which is a blog you might want to take a look at).  And I am sure that we are not done watching the situation unfold in other states as Planned Parenthood, birth control, and abortion continue to be red-hot issues.

But let’s take a look at what this HHS victory may ACTUALLY mean for women’s rights advocates.  This is possibly the biggest victory the family planning movement has had since the United States pushed for the creation of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).  This make a boldfaced statement that women DO have a right to control their fertility…and it sets an important precedent that paves the way for US support in family planning and contraception availability programs overseas.  Since the United States is one of the world’s largest contributors to family planning programs, battles over issues such as abortion and birth control in America often impact women and the services available to them abroad.  There is a lot of history in that particular field that I won’t get into just now, but the United States has gone so far in the past (and by the past, I mean the presidency of George W. Bush, which was not all that long ago) as to refuse to fund the UNFPA and to institute what is called the global gag rule (that is to say, US aid money could not go to any organization that performed or recommended abortions), which caused huge funding cuts from Planned Parenthood and Marie Stokes International, which are major providers of women’s health services in the developing world.  Suffice it to say that it is extremely important that US domestic policies continue to be in favor of family planning, and continue to recognize its paramount importance, not just for the sake of American women but for the sake of other women who are reliant on American programs for things like birth control, cancer screenings, pap smears, and other services.

But enough about what I think, let me know what YOU think!  Danielle Burch is currently putting together a piece on her blog with the reactions and thoughts of other feminist bloggers, and we’re going to do something similar on The Radical Idea.  If you have any thoughts on Planned Parenthood, the recent court rulings, or the Health and Human Services decision, email me at…it can be a few sentences or a paragraph or two, but let me know what you’re thinking, because the next posting on the Planned Parenthood battle will hopefully include your thoughts as well as my assessment of what is going on.



Goldman, Michelle.  2010.  The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World.  Penguin Books (New York, NY)





~ by Randi Saunders on August 5, 2011.

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