As Donald Trump’s inauguration creeps ever closer, top Republicans in the US have made clear that they are committed to repealing the affordable healthcare reforms introduced by Obama during his time in office. And predictably – but terrifyingly – it was confirmed this week that women’s bodies are directly in the firing line.
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, announced on Thursday that when Republicans repeal Obamacare later in January, they will also include a provision to defund Planned Parenthood.
“The Planned Parenthood legislation would be in our [repeal] bill,” he told reporters.
Planned Parenthood is the largest single provider of abortions in the US. It also administers contraceptive and pregnancy advice and annual reproductive health check-ups, as well as millions of cancer, STI and STD tests to both women and men. Currently, it receives $500 million (£403 million) a year in federal government funds – a figure that accounts for more than 40% of its annual revenue.
The Republicans’ proposed defunding measure would cut $400 million (£323 million) in Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood’s budget. As a result, around 400,000 women would lose access to reproductive and sexual healthcare, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said in a press release that “defunding Planned Parenthood is dangerous to people’s health, it’s unpopular, and it would leave people across the country without care. They cannot afford to have basic reproductive healthcare attacked.”
Planned Parenthood has long been unpopular with Republicans, who have threatened to strip the organisation of federal funds on dozens of occasions in the past. As in the UK, the American right-wing are opposed to government-funded medical care in general, but they take particular issue with Planned Parenthood’s provision of abortions.
It’s important to emphasise here that abortions make up only a tiny proportion of the services the organisation delivers (around 3%). In addition, US federal money can’t be used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.
Social media blew up in the wake of Paul Ryan’s announcement, with thousands of women – and men – responding in horror to the news. Many pointed out the simple truth that reducing women’s access to legal abortions does not reduce the number of women having them: it just forces desperate women into unsafe terminations.
“YOU WILL NOT END ABORTION BY DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD,” wrote comedian Emily Heller. “YOU WILL ONLY END WOMEN’S LIVES.”
Others observed that it is working class people – the social group who Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to help on the election trail – who are likely to be worst hit by losing access to government-funded reproductive healthcare.
However, the president of Planned Parenthood hasn’t lost hope. Cecile Richards told reporters: “Planned Parenthood has been here for 100 years and we’re going to be here for 100 more.”
Images: Rex Features