Straightening The Facts Up: A Fact-Based Response to “Keep Your Hands Off my Wallet”

Maia Baker ’19, Opinion Columnist

Do you believe in women’s bodily autonomy? Do you understand what taxes are for? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you would have understood “Keep Your Hands Off: Why Women Need Access to Reproductive Healthcare.” Misdirecting from the suggestion that we should be providing even better healthcare (yes!) to the idea that we shouldn’t pay taxes for comprehensive healthcare (…no), “Keep Your Hands Off My Wallet” represents a radical misinterpretation of a straightforward argument and a disappointing inability to grasp meaning.

First, I see that it is necessary to point out that the original “Keep Your Hands Off” is not about Planned Parenthood. I didn’t mention Planned Parenthood. Shane Shuma’s restrictive focus on Planned Parenthood ignores the much wider argument about the expansion of reproductive health services to everyone, everywhere. If you don’t like Planned Parenthood, don’t go there – but don’t attempt to restrict other people’s access to its services. 

Despite the fact that my “Keep Your Hands Off” is simply not about Planned Parenthood, I’ll take the time to dismantle some of the inaccurate claims presented in “Wallet.” I’m particularly struck by the author’s belief that if my “definition of reproductive services only included cancer screenings, STD treatment, and birth control, then she would agree with me that those funds need to be placed elsewhere.” Yet in the first paragraph, the author of “Wallet” asks, “Where are the people trying to restrict access to STD treatments, ban cancer treatment, or abolish the birth control pill?” Apparently, right here in The Dickinsonian, where the author of “Wallet” proposes that we remove funds from Planned Parenthood, which provides services for 36% of women seeking services at publicly funded health centers – four times as many family planning clients per site as other federally qualified health centers. In one survey, “26% of patients at a Planned Parenthood site said it was the only place they could go for the services they required.” Removing funds from Planned Parenthood literally restricts access to services that many people cannot get anywhere else. 

I disagree strongly with the author’s claim that “even though she didn’t include into her definition of reproductive services, the only reason why the author would not agree with me that funds need to be diverted from Planned Parenthood is because money wouldn’t be going to fund abortions.” Grammar aside, this sentence misrepresents my beliefs, so I’ll set the record straight by saying that I believe Planned Parenthood should receive funds because it provides reproductive health services, abortion among many others, which improve many lives. 

As the author of “Wallet” doesn’t understand, under the Hyde Amendment, federal money does not fund abortions; it’s illegal to use federal money to pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or life endangerment. However, states can use their own money to fund abortions (Guttmacher Institute, “State Funding of Abortion Under Medicaid”). 

You can see the absurdity of the statement in “Wallet” that while the Hyde Amendment “may appear to limit those Medicaid funded abortions in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother, states have the power and have used that power to greatly expand the definition of eligible cases.” States don’t use Medicaid funds to fund abortion – no one does. 

In a gross misrepresentation of facts, “Wallet” declares that the government “should expand freedom and choice to Medicaid recipients by supporting other organizations whose core money making incentive is not to provide abortion.” First of all, Planned Parenthood is a not-for-profit organization. It has no money-making incentive. Second, Planned Parenthood’s main service is not abortions. While no statistics from Planned Parenthood or any other organization accurately represent the proportion of abortions relative to Planned Parenthood’s services, the nested claims that Planned Parenthood mostly provides abortion and that abortion constitutes a profit motive is unsubstantiated, unverifiable, and irresponsible. Third, in what way would supporting another organization expand anyone’s freedom and choice? Removing funds from Planned Parenthood, as I showed earlier, would reduce the freedom and choice of many, many people who rely on their services.

I’ll also address the ideas in “Wallet” that reproductive health services are all and only about sex. I’m not engaging in a moral debate about “entitlement” to sex; I’m talking about credible evidence that proves that reproductive services improve the general welfare of the populace. While most of my readers will know that birth control does prevent pregnancy, they will also have read the entirety of “Keep Your Hands Off” and will therefore know that use of birth control also demonstrably decreases the rates of some forms of cancer, infant mortality, and economic insecurity. Federally funded reproductive healthcare isn’t the government “subsidizing sex” – it’s the government supporting the health and wellbeing of people who don’t want to be pregnant, who are pregnant, or who plan to become pregnant. That is what taxes are for: to “provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.” I’ve already shown that reproductive health services – birth control, STD treatment, cancer screenings – reduce poverty and early death. That protection certainly constitutes providing for general welfare. That is the reason we pay taxes – not to exert control over others.

“Wallet” presents the unsupported claim that “birth control only costs $15 a month without insurance on certain online exchanges” without identifying which online exchanges, who is eligible for them, or what these “exchanges” consist of. I don’t think the author of “Wallet” would find that prescribed birth control is “so cheap and easily accessible” if he knew the process of getting some. Furthermore, even if some birth control costs $15 a month, that’s no reason to expect that everyone should use only those forms of birth control provided at that cost or that other reproductive health centers shouldn’t exist. So what if some people can get some birth control over the Internet? Implying that everyone who wants contraception should rely on Internet providers is a dire restriction of personal choice, and we should never limit people’s choices to the Internet and the absence of personal care; we should provide for their general welfare, and that means widespread access and many accessible choices, not just birth control in the mail.

Lastly, the idea that federal funding for reproductive health care is some sort of personal and/or state control of individuals’ sexual activity is an utter falsehood. You don’t get to decide exactly where each of your tax dollars goes: that is the reality of living in a representative democracy. It’s disingenuous at best, deceitful at worst, to claim that paying taxes gives you personal control over anyone else’s decisions. 

Working adults pay taxes which fund national infrastructure, but it’s not your personal decision to fine someone driving a car you don’t like on the highway. Reproductive healthcare works the same way: you vote, you pay taxes, your representatives in government decide how best to provide for the welfare of the population. It’s well established that reproductive services promote general welfare across sectors: health outcomes, economic security, educational achievement, community wellbeing, individual empowerment – need I go on?

The question of reproductive healthcare comes down to this. If you don’t like sex, don’t have it. If you don’t like Planned Parenthood, don’t go to it. But you cannot use these opinions to argue against comprehensive healthcare, and you cannot use your opinion to dismiss decades of established evidence that reproductive healthcare makes people’s lives better.