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How to save Planned Parenthood by talking openly about sex

Apr. 5, 2017
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Let’s talk about sex, baby / let’s talk about you and me / because reproductive rights are being restricted and access to sexual education might not be readily available! Ah, such a good song.

Seriously, though: we are living in a post-Obama world, and that means Planned Parenthood is at critical risk of being defunded. Not only does PP provide sexual healthcare, but they also provide sexual education to 1.5 million people every year. So why do people want to defund it again?

The topic of sexual health is so frequently brushed under the rug in polite company that many people don’t understand how many non-abortion services are offered by Planned Parenthood--or why they matter. Nor do most people know how Planned Parenthood receives federal funding. (Hint: PP isn’t just grabbing fistfuls of Uncle Sam’s money and throwing it around willy-nilly at abortion providers. The situation is a lot more nuanced than that.)

But who cares, right? Well, you should. And here’s why: if we don’t make it our mission to make sure that everyone understands the basics of sexual health and the role Planned Parenthood has played in promoting it, the organization is at serious risk of losing federal funding entirely. And without that federal funding, millions of Planned Parenthood patients seeking non-abortion services will suffer. 

This anti-PP groundswell is occurring because a lot of people think health clinics that provide abortion services should not get government funding. But abortion services make up 3% of the entire amount of services that PP provides, with the other 97% consisting of things like STD prevention and treatment, contraception, cancer screenings, women’s health services, and other family planning services. Those are pretty damn important.

On top of this, Planned Parenthood is not directly funded by the federal government. The government financial support received by Planned Parenthood comes by way of federal government programs like Medicaid and federal grant programs like Title X. A majority of the patients that PP serves are low-income individuals, so the services they receive are reimbursed through the Medicaid program. Title X, meanwhile, is a grant program that provides funding to clinics that offer family planning services. Oh, and by the way: neither of these programs are allowed by law to provide funding for abortion services. So, in other words, defunding Planned Parenthood would do nothing to further the pro-life agenda--but it would result in millions of people losing access to healthcare and education that they desperately need.

So what can we do? Obviously we can let our representatives know that we do not want PP to be defunded, but we can also work on talking openly and honestly about sex ourselves. If PP is defunded, we need to be prepared. That includes creating an environment in which talking about sex and asking questions about sex is not just tolerated but welcomed. If the government wants to take away sexual education, then we’ll just have to teach ourselves.

Here’s how we can take the sexual health conversation into our own hands:

  1. Parents: talk to your kids.
    Instead of making the sex talk this big awkward event, make it a natural part of your relationship by talking openly about safe and healthy sexual habits. It doesn’t have to be tip-toed around or discussed behind closed doors. When it comes to sex, talk to your kids about it like they’re adults--and don’t hold back. You obviously don’t need to talk about your personal sexual endeavors (boundaries are still important), but you should make sure that they know they can come to you as far as the topic of sex is concerned. They’ll appreciate it, and so will you when they don’t end up pregnant or with an STD.

  2. Kids: talk to your parents.
    I know, talking to your parents about sex is only the most awkward thing on the planet, but guess what? It doesn’t have to be! As much as you may hate to admit it, your parents had sex to make you--and hopefully they’re (ugh) still having sex. They certainly know more about it than you might think, and they know you more than you might think, so they are a good choice when it comes to questions about sex. And you might just be treated like an adult for making such an adult decision. At the end of the day, don’t we all just want our parents to treat us like adults?

  3. Everyone: talk to everyone!
    News flash, people: we all have sex. In fact, I hope you all are getting laid all the time, so long as you’re being smart, safe, and healthy about it. So why is the topic of sex so hush-hush? Maybe, if we talked about it more, the stigma would end and kids and adults and people of all ages wouldn’t be so afraid to ask questions when they desperately need answers. So bring up condom usage and birth control and sex positions in your next convo… it’s only awkward if ya make it awkward.