While Americans’ access to reproductive health care and education is under assault from the Trump administration and Congress, Planned Parenthood received a prestigious medical award for its range of health care services and its scope in reaching low-income women. The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced on Wednesday that the Lasker Awards would go to Planned Parenthood, as well as three scientists.
Planned Parenthood received the Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award for “providing essential health services and reproductive care to millions of women for more than a century.” The foundation praised its work in providing services in medically underserved areas, including to women in rural areas, where they may not have any other option for crucial care, such as cancer screenings and prevention, contraception, abortion, and STI tests.
The foundation also honored two National Cancer Institute scientists who worked on a blueprint for vaccines to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer, as well as a University of Basel scientist who made a discovery related to the metabolic control of cell growth.
Nearly 80 percent of Planned Parenthood patients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, according to a 2015 Government Accountability Office report. Contraception accounted for 34 percent of its services, according to the GAO report. Sexually transmitted infection screenings and treatment accounted for 42 percent of services, according to Planned Parenthood.
The foundation’s decision to give the award to Planned Parenthood sends a message that the services it provides, which are essential for most people with uteruses, have been unnecessarily politicized. Although Planned Parenthood has been under attack from Republicans for years, the Trump administration, combined with a Republican-controlled Congress, has ratcheted up the pressure on the organization.
Earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote that allowed states to withhold federal family planning money from Planned Parenthood. The vote repealed a final rule from the Obama administration that wouldn’t allow states to deny abortion-providing clinics Title X family planning funding. That funding includes STI screenings and treatments and contraception, but would not go toward abortion. The Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal funds from going toward abortions services.
President Trump’s budget also targets Planned Parenthood. The administration’s proposed 2018 budget would get rid of all funding to reproductive health organizations. The Republicans’ health care bill would have cut off all federal funds to the organization for a year. One could argue Republicans’ longstanding obsession with Planned Parenthood helped cost them the support they needed for the health care bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the three Republican senators who voted against the bill, also voted against 2015 legislation repealing Obamacare because it proposed defunding Planned Parenthood.
On attacks from the administration and Congress, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, told ThinkProgress in an email that the Republican health care bill is “the worst legislation for women in a generation.” She said about the administration’s attacks, “We could see this administration fundamentally undercut no-copay birth control, eliminate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, or, alarmingly, put new restrictions on organizations that provide birth control, which will make it harder for women to plan for and have families.”
Faced with an uphill battle, Richards said, “We will keep fighting for our patients, no matter what.”