Planning Parenthood, supporters unite against Pence Amendment

MAHALET DEJENE | 4/12/2011, 4:45 p.m.

An estimated 6,000 people rallied against the Pence Amendment, which would cut federal funding from services offered by Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, in Lower Manhattan's Foley Square last Saturday.

In a blatant attack against Planned Parenthood, an organization lauded for providing preventative care and sexual health education, the Pence Amendment seeks to cut spending by cutting funding from an institution that it claims is the nation's largest abortion provider.

C. Nicole Mason, 34, the executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University, said she was not surprised that the amendment passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"There is a clear agenda coming out of the House," Mason said, "It's very conservative and it's an agenda that is not in line with the president's agenda and the priorities of a lot of American working people."

The American working class is exactly who the legislation targets. The African-American Outreach director for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Veronica Byrd, said the Pence Amendment "does not only target African-American women, it targets minorities and all low-income families. Many of them have no other options."

"Two-thirds of our patients are either on Medicaid or receive services for a reduced rate or free," said Erica Sackin, the media content and outreach manager for Planned Parenthood in New York City, who helped organize the protest in Foley Square. "So I think it's the women who generally need help in paying for health care or don't have another place to go who it's targeting, which is reprehensible."

The legislation is a "blow to women of color," said Mason, since they make up a substantial demographic of people who go to Planned Parenthood, and as such are facing a "critical battle for Black women and low-income women in general."

The Pence Amendment, although highlighting its distaste for Planned Parenthood's abortion services in particular, affects many other Title X--programs created to providing low-income families with relevant family planning and caring services. For one, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) would also see cuts in funding.

According to the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 9 million people nationwide use the WIC, which offers nutritional foods and information on staying healthy for low-income women and their children.

Services that aim to prevent the contraction and spread of disease through STD testing, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, birth control and family planning are forgotten in the smear campaign that the Pence Amendment favors by painting Planned Parenthood as an anti-community, anti-life entity.

"We don't realize that a lot of what Planned Parenthood does is pick up the pieces or fill the holes in the things that aren't working in our health care system," said Dr. Sarah Miller, a speaker at the protest and part of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

To say that the amendment has anything to do with saving money is like "pulling a fast one on America," said Miller, "There's actually nothing about it that will save money in the short-term or the long-term."