Last February, I wrote that Planned Parenthood clinics had seen a 10 percent uptick in business because of women losing their health insurance and that women are swarming to these clinics for cut-rate contraception, Pap smears, and breast exams. Today, Planned Parenthood introduced an ad campaign, airing on cable news networks in the nation's capital, stating that every year the group provides 1 million cervical cancer screenings and 850,000 breast exams and also supplies immunizations, as well as contraception. "Ninety percent of what Planned Parenthood does is provide preventive and primary care to keep women healthy," the voice-over states.
The other 10 percent—abortions—goes unmentioned. I ask Cecile Richards, the organization's president, to explain why. She says the ad is aimed at policy folks involved in healthcare reform, those old guys in Congress (my words, not hers) who think the clinics only provide abortions. "Polls show that women generally know that Planned Parenthood provides STD testing and cancer screenings, but a lot of folks in Washington don't. We're trying to fill in information that they don't have."
Indeed, most women probably do know what Planned Parenthood's about, given that 6 in 10 of them who go to a clinic consider it their primary source of healthcare, according to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute. The real push here, Richards explains, is to get Congress to consider women's health clinics as an integral part of the health reform package. She wants these lawmakers to know that Planned Parenthood clinics also "provide prenatal care and adoption referrals" for pregnant women who want to give up their baby, she says.
Sounds very much in line with what President Obama is promoting for his "common ground" reproductive health proposals: Fewer unintended pregnancies; increased access to adoption; better pregnancy care; reduced need for abortion. As Congress begins debate over healthcare reform, Richards would like legislators to know that Planned Parenthood clinics are in favor of those common ground approaches. "We want our clinics and other community health providers to be part of the network that's included in health reform," she says. "For so many women, family planning services are the way they enter our health system."
While those politically charged abortions will still be offered, they won't be appearing in Planned Parenthood ads anytime soon.