The Suburbanization of Planned Parenthood

At The Corner, K.Lo uses this Wall Street Journal story on Planned Parenthood's suburban expansion as an excuse to urge John McCain to make de-funding the organization a plank in his presidential campaign platform. After all, suburban women don't really need Planned Parenthood, right?

As a political strategy, I think targeting Planned Parenthood would backfire among female voters, many of whom have turned to Planned Parenthood at least a few times in their lives, regardless of their socioeconomic class or political take on abortion. Visiting Planned Parenthood was one of the easiest, cheapest, and most confidential ways to obtain emergency contraception before Plan B was available over-the-counter. The organization also provides confidential gynecological care to teenagers, many of whom don't want their parents involved with the process.These teens, by the way, are going to have sex whether or not they can access birth control, so thank goodness there's an organization out there that gives them the option.

All that doesn't take into account the fact that Planned Parenthood remains the primary health care provider for millions of low-income women nationwide. The idea that the group would "suburbanize" into more affluent communities rubs some the wrong way. There's a legitimate debate to be had on whether Planned Parenthood's resources are best spent in under-served rural areas (87 percent of American counties have no abortion provider) or in suburbs where clients are able to pay for services out-of-pocket and are more likely to get involved with the organization's political mission.

But it's important to realize that suburbs aren't homogeneous. In many regions of the country, they are increasingly home to pockets of poverty, and are experiencing an influx of poor immigrants. And girls everywhere are facing a bevy of conflicting messages about sexuality and motherhood — consider, after all, the suburban Massachusetts high school students who recently made a pregnancy pact.

There's nothing wrong, I think, with building more Planned Parenthood clinics in affluent areas and using funds raised there to expand abortion access via newer, nicer clinics in low-income areas. That's Planned Parenthood's plan. As Ann has written, the real estate of abortion providers is often depressing, drab, and institutional. That should change.

cross-posted at TAPPED

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