Finding Alternatives to Planned Parenthood: A Consistent Life Initiative

A common argument in favor of maintaining funding for Planned Parenthood is that alternative facilities, such as pregnancy help centers and community health centers, lack sufficient resources to serve the patients who receive medical care from PP, and that women’s health would therefore be underserved without it.

My response to this is, then isn’t the better solution to redirect the necessary support to those facilities that serve women’s health in fully nonviolent ways?

The Consistent Life Network, in a freshly launched project, is seeking to do just that at the grassroots level – both by matching PP centers to existing qualified Community Health Centers in their vicinity, and by finding where quality nonviolent alternatives are still needed. Masthead

It is called a grassroots defunding campaign (in the sense of on-the-ground action, primarily) because it seeks a reorientation of resources and options at the level of actual patient care, as explained by the project’s website:

How does “Grassroots Defunding” Work? 

The more people who can be persuaded to use alternatives to PP for genuine health care needs, the easier it will be to wean the U.S. off of this major abortion practicing and abortion advocacy group.

Planned Parenthood mainly receives two types of US taxpayer funding:

  • Direct grants from Title X Family Planning money.
  • Medicaid payments from patients who choose to go there. These can’t cover most abortions, but they can cover such services as family planning, pap smears, STD screenings, tubal ligations, and vasectomies.

Courts have usually insisted that it’s individual patients who decide whether or not to use any facility’s services. Medicaid must pay as long as the facility passes muster.

Of course, it’s also patients who determine payment if they pay directly for their own care, or if they use their own private insurance.

PP is strengthened when women and men choose to go there for actual medical services. PP is weakened when people choose to go elsewhere for the same medical needs.

Additionally, those states that give PP Title X funding may be more easily persuaded not to do so if fewer people are going there. Voting to defund is much easier if alternatives are clearly readily available.

We also want women who might get pregnant later to be out of the habit of interacting with PP. It’s harder for PP to talk them into abortions if they’re not in PP’s orbit.

A major part of persuading people to go elsewhere is giving them the information about where else they can go. The more convenient the alternative, the better.

The vast majority of PP centers are surrounded by plenty of Community Health Centers, and possibly other good medical facilities, to which people could go instead. The purpose of this campaign is to identify those centers, and then find various ways of encouraging people to go there instead.

As a Consistent Life project, this campaign can be considered part of a longstanding tradition of nonviolent direct action, and has been explicitly created and publicized with this framework in mind.  The launch announcement explains,

We’re peace activists dedicated to the pro-life cause. So when we think of strategies to stop abortion, we think the way peace activists think. We advocate nonviolence, which gains a major part of its power from noncooperation with violent institutions. We think about a constructive program of building up nonviolent institutions, so as they gain strength, the violent institutions weaken.

And again from the website, building on the same concept:

As peace-movement pro-lifers with a long interest in nonviolence strategies, this campaign follows Gandhi’s idea of a Constructive Program. This does two things:

  1. It says not just what you’re against, but what you’re for.

  2. It builds up alternative institutions to the violent institutions you oppose, with a strategy of displacing them over time.

There are in fact thousands of Community Health Centers to the roughly 600 Planned Parenthood centers.  What’s needed is the coordinated legwork to compare available options (strict accuracy is paramount) and encourage the presence and use of those that in no way practice or advocate violence.

I encourage all who share these goals to visit the project website, send in clear and accurate first-hand information on the listings for your area if you have it, and if you want to do more, there are suggestions provided for direct research and other related actions that can be tailored to different local situations.

Through the promotion of quality, nonviolent healthcare facilities, we can prove by our actions that to be pro-life is to be pro-women’s health – that in fact we are not “anti-choice,” but pro-nonviolent choices.

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