Local perspectives on Komen-Planned Parenthood controversy
In this political season, some nonprofit organizations have become political footballs and gotten kicked around.
Earlier this year, Karen Handel resigned as senior vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen after her advocacy for her agency ending funding for a Planned Parenthood breast-cancer screening program created a major controversy.
"If we just say it's about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political," Handel was quoted as saying in a Huffington Post article.
Planned Parenthood and critics alike contend that Susan G. Komen originally cut Planned Parenthood funding in response to anti-abortion groups such as Americans United for Life. Komen has denied these claims and publicly stated that the original decision to terminate future funding was due to new policy changes that determine how grantees are selected.
Since September, Congress has been investigating Planned Parenthood's alleged use of federal funding for abortion services, such as the Title 10 family planning program.
Planned Parenthood has firmly stated that none of its federal funding is spent towards abortion services, though funds were scheduled to cease under the Komen foundation's new policy to not provide grants for organizations under local, state, or federal investigation.
After the controversy sparked public furor early this February, Komen decided to continue future funding for Planned Parenthood woman's health services. Though both organizations experienced a massive influx of donations during the ordeal, it's unclear how a reduction in funding might have affected Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide and if political pressure did influence Komen's decisions, whether these views might have affected those depending on clinic healthcare.
"Going to Planned Parenthood, and other clinics, is actually the only way that some of our students can get the healthcare that they need," said Teresa Pasquerello, a local kinesiologist and instructor at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood, N.J.
As instructor of the school's Teen Prevention Education Program, Pasquerello trains a select group of high school seniors in leadership, prevention of sexually transmitted infection and HIV, contraceptive use, and other sexuality issues in order for program members to educate freshmen on a monthly basis.
"Being that I work at Highland, and the school demographic's economic levels are not at the top of the top, we have a lot of students whose parents do not have health insurance," Pasqurello said. "Clinics offer services to kids that don't have health insurance."
Pasquerello recommends clinics like Planned Parenthood not only as a kinesiologist and teacher, but also as a regular clinic user herself. Pasquerello recalls first using Planned Parenthood clinics a a student at West Chester University.
"I had insurance," she said. "So, could I have gotten any of the services available at clinics somewhere else? Yes.
"But, when I was of a certain age, there were things I wanted to be sure of for my own health and wellness that I didn't necessarily want my parents to know."
Pasquerello said that without clinics, her options would have been limited because she was on her parents' insurance.
"You can go for birth control, and you can go for other things - things that kids might not necessarily want their parents to find out, but are still trying to take care of themselves, which is not wrong."
Maggie Groff, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vice president of external affairs, notes how communities might be affected if the organization lost funding or disbanded.
"If we weren't around, dumping over 45,000 annual Planned Parenthood patients into the market around the Southeastern Pennsylvania area without an affordable place to go, that would either take their medical assistance or provide services on a sliding fee scale - there just wouldn't be enough places to handle them. There would be a lot more unintended pregnancies, too."
"Most of our patient population is in the 18 to 24 age range, and most of them are women, because most people come to us for family planning or birth control . . . We are, oftentimes, the only health care that the women in particular who come to us receive."
Groff notes that, besides abortions, clinics offer birth control and sexually-transmitted infection testing and treatment, as well as a wide range of general health screenings which include pap smears and breast exams.
Looking to the future, Groff explains that the Planned Parenthoods of Southeastern Pennsylvania are pleased that Susan G. Komen has revoked its decision to prohibit future funding.
"Americans appreciate that Planned Parenthood is a provider of cancer screening and education and that we're all in the fight against breast cancer together. . . . We feel very positively about our working relationship with the local Susan G. Komen chapter."