Executive Director’s Letter

Rania Matar’s photo-essay on Planned Parenthood in this annual report demands to be viewed with seriousness. We commissioned this essay to mark the 50th anniversary of the Gund Foundation’s first grant to Planned Parenthood. There have been many since then. We celebrate that milestone because Planned Parenthood does vital work to advance the health of women who might otherwise have no access to care.

The faces of the patients, their loved ones and the care providers in the photographs tell a story of anxiety and hope, of gratitude and relief, of concern and commitment.

And one photo tells another story – of those whose religious or moral convictions move them to protest Planned Parenthood because a portion of the organization’s work is to provide abortions. The divisiveness of this issue and its effect on American politics underscore the seriousness of our Foundation’s reflection. No one rejoices at an abortion. Yet, the legal right of women to end a pregnancy safely and free from coercion is a right that we, along with the majority of Americans, support.

Many members of both major political parties once proudly championed Planned Parenthood. But that shared view, like so much of the bipartisan spirit that once animated public affairs, seems a distant memory. Inaccurate charges now commonly distort the conversation about Planned Parenthood and the larger issue of women’s health. A case in point is the controversy that erupted in January when news broke that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation intended to end funding for Planned Parenthood. The decision was reportedly made because Planned Parenthood was “under investigation,” although that investigation gives every appearance of being a politically motivated fishing expedition by a partisan in Congress vigorously opposed to reproductive freedom. Still, the controversy – which concluded with Komen’s swift reversal – served a useful purpose by highlighting the fact that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s resources – and zero tax dollars – provide abortion-related services. It underscored the wide array of health services and research that Planned Parenthood provides, and exposed an opposition agenda reaching far beyond the abortion debate and into a woman’s right to access even the most basic reproductive health care.

Planned Parenthood provides reproductive and sexual health care for about 5 million clients each year at more than 800 health centers nationwide. A quarter of those clients are teenagers, and 75 percent have incomes of less than $35,000 per year. Planned Parenthood health care professionals screen for cancer. They test for and treat sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS, to help prevent their spread. One in five American women has received care from a Planned Parenthood health center during her lifetime, and for many Americans Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses are the only health care providers they see.

An ideological campaign to defund Planned Parenthood would, if successful, damage the lives of the women who rely on these services and would surely increase the rate of abortions because so many women would lose access to affordable birth control and prenatal care. Comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education and affordable family planning services help to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Planned Parenthood and its many supporters have been, and must remain, an effective voice for the women who need these services. In Ohio, the effectiveness of that voice is being strengthened by a merger of the state’s affiliates on July 1 into Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. We will watch and support this change in their organizational approach, knowing that their commitment to the health of women will not waver. Moreover, while we know the political debate will not disappear, the daily work of Planned Parenthood, powerfully illustrated in these photographs, continues without distraction and undiminished.

David T. Abbott Signature

David T. Abbott
Executive Director

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