Last weekend, after the looming threat of a government shutdown, as well as the threat of a government mandated cut from the federal funding that goes towards Planned Parenthood, I was relieved to find out that Planned Parenthood’s funding was left untouched when Obama and the House of Reps. finally came to a decision regarding the budget. As I was browsing online articles covering the long-awaited compromise, I stumbled upon this title from The Daily Caller: “Why pro-choice feminists should want Planned Parenthood to be defunded.” After reading the title the first time, I had to read it again to make sure what I was reading was correct. Really? A pro-choice feminist who didn’t believe that Planned Parenthood should be federally funded for its services? This article, I thought, couldn’t possibly make much sense. But, surprisingly, the article not only brought to my attention a new way of viewing the practice of federally funding organizations, but also a new way of viewing feminism in general.
The author of the article, Shamara Riley, a self-proclaimed Libertarian feminist, says, “While I disagree with social conservatives about Planned Parenthood, they are correct that Planned Parenthood shouldn’t get federal funds. My issue is not with Planned Parenthood, but rather with government involvement in Planned Parenthood’s activities.” Riley goes on to give several reasons for her belief:
1. “Libertarian feminists believe in equal treatment for women, but we don’t believe that some people have the right to rifle through otherpeople’s wallets to pay for their pet causes (even causes that we support). We believe that funding an organization such as Planned Parenthood properly belongs in the private sector.”
2. “Another reason why Planned Parenthood should be defunded is that strings come attached to government involvement. Federal subsidies come with reduced independence and more government oversight into Planned Parenthood’s affairs.”
3. “Lastly, too many pro-choice advocates push responsibility for life choices from individuals to America as a whole. It needs to return to individuals, where it belongs. We pro-choice advocates can’t simultaneously say that government has no business getting involved in a woman’s reproductive health choices (right to privacy) and demand that everyone pay for said choices (government handouts). It’s contradictory, and undermines our moral high ground on reproductive health issues.”
I can actually understand Riley’s argument that relying on the government for funding isn’t right—not necessarily because I feel that the government is “rifling through other people’s wallets” for money, but because putting such an important organization in the hands of the government can prove to be dangerous. I mean, wasn’t the funding for Planned Parenthood almost just taken away by the same government that provided the funding in the first place? If the government has the potential to take away the funding so easily, can we ever be certain that the funding will be steady and secure? Riley argues that instead of relying on the government to fund Planned Parenthood services, we should turn to private charity for donations to support the organization. She seems convinced that private funding would be enough to support Planned Parenthood, noting that online donations have increased by 500% since the recent uproar over the budget proposal. While it is great to see such an increase in interest and support, I can’t help but feel that it is simply because of the uproar; people tend to feel more inspired in the midst of controversy. Would private donations alone be able to support Planned Parenthood for a sustained period of time? Can we even trust that enough people in this country would care to continue supporting the organization? I can’t exactly say I would trust that people would maintain an interest.
The debate comes down to this fundamental question about what we believe about human nature: Do we trust that people can dependable enough to take on the responsibility of funding organizations like Planned Parenthood, or do we feel that people—who can be greedy and apathetic— require the government’s help in funding them? Do we side with Libertarian feminists, or do we side with Liberal, more socialist-minded feminists?
Although I feel that Riley presents a compelling argument, right now, I have to say that I believe that government support is needed in this situation. While, ideally, I think that it would be awesome to be able to fund Planned Parenthood from the direct hands of the people, I feel that not enough people care about Planned Parenthood’s cause to be able to yield sustained support. Though I hope that one day we may be able to reach a point where the majority of people in this country are aware of women’s health issues and actually care to improve them, the time has yet to come; not enough people are passionate about these issues, and, therefore, government funding is necessary.