The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Last night, the Senate voted 53-46 to block a bill that proposed to strip Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) health centers of key federal funding, which would have seriously undermined the clinic network’s ability to provide critical preventive care to millions of patients. Though many people associate Planned Parenthood with abortion, the organization’s clinics also provide affordable, quality preventive health care and treatment—including routine examinations, cancer screenings, contraceptive services, and HIV and STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing—to 2.7 million people across the U.S. Federal funding enables PPFA health centers to offer these services at a low cost, making them accessible to many patients, including young people, low-income individuals and people of color, who may not otherwise have access to important health care services.
Like many community health centers across the country, PPFA relies on federal funding (about 40 percent of their total budget) to provide necessary health services to patients in need of care. And, approximately one in five women in America will rely on PPFA for health care in her lifetime. Planned Parenthood health centers comprise 10 percent of all publicly funded family planning centers, but they serve 36 percent of all clients who obtain health care from that clinic network. Each Planned Parenthood health center on average serves nearly 3,000 contraceptive clients per year—far more than other clinic types.
Despite the clear need for PPFA-provided health services, Senate leadership fast-tracked a vote on the defunding bill (S. 1881) following the release of a series of deceptive videos intended to undermine Planned Parenthood’s credibility and ability to serve patients. The videos falsely claim that the organization profits from donations of fetal tissue for medical research. Some Planned Parenthood health centers do donate fetal tissue, at the client’s request, for use in critical biomedical research to aid research to cure diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. In all these cases, patients make the decision to donate tissue for such research, and Planned Parenthood does not profit from these voluntary, legal donations.
Jewish tradition teaches us that preserving life and promoting health are among the most precious of values. These values have informed our affirmative commitment to medical science throughout the ages. The moral imperative to pursue stem cell research is clear; it is an embodiment of the mitzvah of healing. Our tradition requires that we use all available knowledge to heal the ill, and "when one delays in doing so, it is as if he has shed blood" (Shulchan Aruch, Yorei De’ah 336:1).
Though the defunding effort failed in yesterday’s cloture vote, the efforts to defund PPFA are not over. Some Senators and Representatives have indicated that they will oppose spending bills to keep the government running, which will come up this fall, unless Congress defunds PPFA. A House committee launched an investigation into PPFA, and, as the 2016 presidential campaign heats up, conservative candidates have already showed they’ll continue to oppose and undermine women’s access to reproductive health care.
As Reform Jews, we believe firmly in a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. All life is sacred in Judaism; as our tradition commands women to care for their own health and well-being above all else, we must fight to ensure that all women and their families have safe, legal and affordable access to reproductive and preventive health care services. Defunding Planned Parenthood would prove a serious barrier to health care access for the 2.7 million Americans who rely on PPFA clinics for affordable care.