Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review
On the corner of Ellis and York streets, the single floor building sits quietly on the block, unassuming, almost masked in its concrete surroundings. This is the Bellingham center of Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood, one of more than 800 Planned Parenthood health centers in the country. But if hundreds of federal lawmakers have their way, this center and the others like it in the United States, will lose all federal funding due to budget cuts.
On Feb. 8, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed to cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood, a totaled $75 million loss that would block the organization from any kind of government funding. The vote, which passed 240 to 185 on Feb. 18, is now taking the proposal to the Senate.
A second proposed cut is to the program Title X, created by President Richard Nixon in 1970 in hopes that by making birth control affordable, people could rise above poverty and better plan for their families. Since then, the federal funding has been used for services related to family planning such as birth control, cervical and breast cancer screenings, STD testing, counseling and sex education.
Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood Coordinator Lauren Jones said this proposed cut will affect so many people who do not realize it, because this is a reproductive health issue.
But this, she said, if passed, could start a trend of many cuts to come in the future.
“We’ve been provided with a lot of resources. We have access to birth control, emergency contraception, a safe and legal abortion,” Jones said. “And people take that for granted because no one in our generation knows what it’s like to live without that as an option.”
If this proposal is passed, many people will know exactly what it’s like, with nearly 48 percent of Planned Parenthood patients nationwide cut off from their health care source entirely, according to the center’s website.
Jones said the public’s disinterest in this issue reflects the detachment from most political issues.
“I think people in general are becoming lazy. People are busy and they’re tired and they’re stressed and people are becoming passive,” Jones said. “For that reason, the only people whose
voices are being heard in the legislature are extremist views.”
Jones, who has been an advocate for Planned Parenthood since volunteering in high school, said she can remember becoming sexually active in high school and feeling alone because no one understood her.
Referring to that time as a “rebellious” stage, Jones said she felt unhealthy and needed understanding. It wasn’t until she joined Teen Council, a teen advocacy group run by Planned Parenthood, that Jones felt a sense of belonging.
Since 1916, Planned Parenthood has offered a variety of services, 97 percent of which is preventative.
Sexual Awareness Center Coordinator Shawna Leader said that Planned Parenthood provides resources that are valuable tools in any community, and the potential cuts to funding will affect a lot of people.
“Planned Parenthood getting its funding cut is discouraging, because it is potentially one less resource in our community. It’s definitely important to have a diverse set of resources in the community because people don’t always feel comfortable coming to one place or another.”
However, it is for its controversial abortion service Planned Parenthood is most often criticized.
Freshman Lisa Perdue said that even though Planned Parenthood does offer abortions, people are focusing too much on that facet of the organization and not on the real issue at hand.
“Because Planned Parenthood offers abortions, people on both sides of the argument ultimately take away from the aspects that are truly important by hyping it up with a controversial subject,” she said.
Congress has prohibited the use of government money on abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. The bill, known as the Hyde Amendment, was enacted in the 1970s and since then Planned Parenthood has paid for its abortion services independently.
Many conservatives and opponents of Planned Parenthood have chosen to ignore this fact, and continue encouraging the funding cuts. According to Perdue, the opposition is also ignoring the fact that it is a women’s reproductive health issue.
“I think the proposed cut of funding towards Planned Parenthood is a devastating blow to all Americans, no matter what their political ideology or spiritual affiliation,” she said.
The federal funding given to Planned Parenthood has historically been used to support the family planning and sex education components of the organization. According to Planned Parenthood, 1 in 5 women have been to one of their clinics and nearly 3 million women, men and teens depend on their basic care.
Perdue says that her own personal connections to Planned Parenthood have nothing to do with her argument or opinions, but rather her duty as a human being.
“I could die a virgin, never have need for a cancer screening, never have any need for any Planned Parenthood services,” she said. “But that does not mean hundreds of thousands of other citizens do not benefit from it. Even if I never need their services, I beg my government to tax me so that it can be funded.”