Politics’ Intrusion on Women’s Right to Privacy

BY: JOELLE VOGEL

Planned Parenthood was established nearly 100 years ago and provides healthcare and sex education to both females and males.[1] With approximately 700 health care centers nationwide, this organization has helped to prevent unwanted pregnancies, assisted in the reduction of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and offered screening for many types of cancers.[2] Additionally, Planned Parenthood has provided a safe place for scared and curious teenagers, as well as underprivileged Americans in need of medical care and information. Specifically, Planned Parenthood’s annual report showed that it gave 487,029 breast exams in 2013 alone.[3] If the Planned Parenthood doctors and specialists found abnormalities, the women were then referred for a mammogram.[4] Furthermore, the organization administers Pap tests and HPV tests – diagnostic measures that check for cervical cancer.[5] And yes, among these numerous available services, they also administer abortions.

This past summer, videos surfaced of Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they harvest tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research.[6] Republicans are arguing that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling this tissue for profit.[7] Planned Parenthood fought back, stating that the organization has only recovered expenses for legally retrieving the organs and that the videos were simply edited to make it seem otherwise.[8] Planned Parenthood even released an analysis of these videos done by a transcription service, which conducted the study without knowing that Planned Parenthood was its client.[9] Compared to the transcripts made public by the anti-abortion group, the transcription service concluded that there were substantive omissions.[10] Additionally, the service highlighted the fact that “‘the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries’ unless C.M.P. provides investigators with its original material, and that material is independently authenticated as unaltered.”[11]

The Republican response to these videos is an ongoing effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood gets approximately a third of their yearly budget from federal funds ($450 million).[12] The majority of this is from reimbursements for seeing low-income Medicaid patients.[13]Federal money cannot even be used for abortions.[14]

On October 7, 2015, the House voted to create a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood’s procurement of fetal tissue.[15] Then, on October 13th, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept payment for the tissues they make available for research.[16] Although this act is legal as outlined in a 1993 law passed by Congress, Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to add more fodder to the anti-abortion activists’ argument.[17] Planned Parenthood is thereby opting to continue to procure the fetal tissue for research for disorders such as degenerative eye disease, Down syndrome, and many infectious diseases without the pay to which they are legally entitled.[18]

Abortion is just one of the many services that Planned Parenthood provides. By defunding this non-profit organization, Congress would be depriving Americans (specifically women) of their privacy and access to health care and health education.  Legislators need to set aside their difference of opinion on abortion and focus on one of the foundations for a woman’s right to choose in the first place: “[t]his right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”[19]

The defunding of Planned Parenthood infringes upon this right – particularly for young women. Many teenagers and college-aged women are embarrassed to ask questions about sexuality and women’s health issues. They fear their right of privacy will be compromised because they tend to be concerned that their parents or peers would find out that they are seeking contraception or STD screenings. Planned Parenthood provides these young women with a safe place to get these services. Otherwise, they would have to go to a health center at their school or seek medical attention while still under their parents’ insurance; both of these options offer little in the way of anonymity.

A safe haven for medical care and information should not be endangered by political agendas. The federal funds received by Planned Parenthood don’t even go towards abortions. This is nothing more than an excuse that anti-abortion groups are using to abolish Planned Parenthood in an effort to get rid of both the organization and their legal, abortion-performing function. In fact, the week after the videos surfaced, Rep. Ann Wagner stated in a floor speech that she “will continue to fight for the day when abortions and the atrocities associated with it are not only illegal, but unthinkable.”[20] Even if there were some truth to these videos, it wouldn’t be the organization that would be punished by the defunding—it would be millions of American women who would lose access to medical care and information; the women who give birth to children for whom they cannot provide; and the women who succumb to breast or cervical cancer because they had no other place to turn for screenings. Politics has no place in these private matters.


[1] Planned Parenthood: About Us, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are (last visited

[2] Id.

[3] Michelle Ye Hee Lee, The Repeated, Misleading claim that Planned Parenthood ‘provides’ mammograms, Washington Post (Oct. 2, 2015), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/10/02/the-repeated-misleading-claim-that-planned-parenthood-provides-mammograms/.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Alan Fram, House OKs Planned Parenthood Probe, ABC News (Oct 7, 2015), http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/house-forming-special-panel-probe-planned-parenthood-34321105.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Jackie Calmes, Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds, N.Y. Times (Aug 27, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/28/us/abortion-planned-parenthood-videos.html?_r=0.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Alan Fram, House OKs Planned Parenthood Probe, ABC News (Oct 7, 2015), http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/house-forming-special-panel-probe-planned-parenthood-34321105.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Jackie Calmes, Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds, N.Y. Times (Aug 27, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/28/us/abortion-planned-parenthood-videos.html?_r=0.

[16] Tamar Lewin, Planned Parenthood Won’t Accept Money For Fetal Tissue, New York Times (Oct. 13, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/14/us/planned-parenthood-to-forgo-payment-for-fetal-tissue-programs.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19]Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 153 (1973).

[20]Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy, Planned Parenthood To No Longer Accept Reimburesement For Fetal Tissue Donation, Yahoo Health (Oct. 13, 2015), https://www.yahoo.com/health/planned-parenthood-to-no-longer-accept-191600245.html.


Joelle Vogel is a 2017 Staff Editor of the Race and Social Justice Law Review.

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