In response to the release of a series of deceptively edited videos created by anti-abortion activists, a group of Republican lawmakers are trying to push through a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and cut off millions of women, men, and young people from access to care.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) sent an email urging pastors to “confront this evil in our nation by praying and preaching with an unbridled passion until funding for Planned Parenthood ends.”
Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) has said, “We must redirect funds from Planned Parenthood to the federally qualified health clinics that provide more, comprehensive services to women and girls.”
Congresswoman Diane Black (R-TN) believes that if Planned Parenthood were defunded, “That money goes to other clinics that are providing the services that Planned Parenthood declares that they’re providing and in a much larger way.”
So, what’s the big deal about defunding Planned Parenthood?
Let’s take a look at why these officials are not only dead wrong but would actually gut access to comprehensive care for women in the United States, putting in jeopardy something Senator Cruz says Americans should value highly: “the health of our nation’s mothers, daughters and sisters.”
Who Would Be Impacted?
More than half of the 2.7 million people who use the services of Planned Parenthood health centers and affiliates each year could potentially lose access because they rely on public health programs such as Medicaid to cover their costs.
The impact would be particularly disastrous, since most women who access care from a family planning center say it’s their main source of health care (and 4 in 10 say it’s their only source of care).
An overwhelming majority of those who visit Planned Parenthood live with incomes of 150% of the federal poverty levels or less. And more than half of Planned Parenthood’s health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas (too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty, or a high elderly population).
This means that more than half of Planned Parenthood’s centers serve communities where being seen by a doctor would otherwise mean long and expensive trips to the nearest health center, long wait times, and a strong likelihood that there will not be an ob/gyn on site.
Planned Parenthood is able to help women like Grecia, whose family in Arizona were dropped from their medical insurance and who was denied health care by the state’s Medicaid system because she lived with her parents. And Rebecca in Michigan, who is only able to afford catastrophic health insurance, which doesn’t cover birth control. And Julia, in New York City, whose financial situation left her without the means to get help for chronic urinary tract and bladder infections.
Their work resulted in the prevention of approximately 516,000 unintended pregnancies.
Additionally, Planned Parenthood provides educational programs and outreach to 1.5 million young people and families. Planned Parenthood educational programs and outreach not only focus on AIDS/HIV prevention and family planning, but also training professionals who work with children, teenagers, and young adults who go on to work in a variety of health care fields.
What Would People Be Losing
Planned Parenthood is the most trusted women’s health care provider in the country. In 2013, Planned Parenthood health centers across the country provided 10.6 million services to their patients. Services that included:
nearly 4.5 million STI tests and treatments, including HIV tests;
over 900,000 cancer screenings and preventive services;
more than 3.5 million contraceptive services; and
approximately 65,000 family practice services — including treatment of chronic diseases and authorization for hospital care.
Couldn’t the Gap Be Filled by Other Providers?
That’s what lawmakers pushing bills to defund Planned Parenthood are saying. But the American Public Health Association called that idea “ludicrous.” More than two-thirds of states have reported difficulty ensuring provider participation with Medicaid programs, and approximately half of the states report challenges ensuring specialty providers — including OB/GYNs — for Medicaid programs. During the Senate debate earlier this year, the California Primary Care Association wrote that defunding Planned Parenthood would place “untenable stress” on their facilities. But you don’t have to take their word for it.
In 2011, Indiana attempted to defund Planned Parenthood and has since so dramatically slashed funding that five clinics, all of which offered HIV testing, were forced to close. In March of this year, Governor Mike Pence declared a state of emergency in the state of Indiana, as the result of an unprecedented outbreak of HIV. The outbreak’s epicenter was Scott County, once home to one of the five closed Planned Parenthood health centers.
Planned Parenthood had served Shelby County, Tennessee’s Title X clients for 30 years, but in 2011 the county decided to give the contract to Christ Community Health Services, a religious organization that will not provide abortions or contraception, and will not refer patients to any provider who will offer abortions. In the months following this change, Shelby County saw a more than 90% decrease in the monthly number of patients served — from approximately 719 per month seen at Planned Parenthood to 51 per month at Christ Community. And nobody at CCHS can account for the loss.
Texas slashed the family planning budget by two-thirds in 2011, and 53 clinics were forced to close. The Planned Parenthood health centers that were forced out of the Women’s Health Program served nearly half of the program’s clients. According to researchers at George Washington University, Texas’ remaining facilities would be forced to increase their caseloads by 2-5 times to fill that gap. As a result of Texas’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, 54% fewer patients received care and experts were anticipating nearly 24,000 unplanned births between 2014-2015 alone, raising state and federal taxpayers Medicaid costs by $273 million.
One in five women has used Planned Parenthood in her lifetime. Defunding Planned Parenthood would have disastrous implications for a huge number of people, including a rapidly increasing population of male patients. Federal law already prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in extremely rare and difficult circumstances, the only result these lawmakers would achieve would be denying low-income people access to reproductive health care.
Editorial Board. "The Campaign of Deception Against Planned Parenthood." The New York Times 22 July 2015, Opinion sec.
Bassett, L. (2015, July 25). Mitch McConnell Says 'Women's Health' Five Times In Attempt To Defund Planned Parenthood.
Szabo, Liz, and Laura Unger. "Family Planning Budgets in Crisis before Planned Parenthood Controversy." USA Today 31 July 2015, News sec.
Congressional record vol. 161 August 2015
Bassett, L. (2015, March 31). Indiana Shut Down Its Rural Planned Parenthood Clinics And Got An HIV Outbreak.
Gass, N. (2015, March 26). Pence declares emergency as HIV epidemic rocks Indiana.
Sayle, H. (2012, August 23). Unplanned Parenthood. Memphis Flyer.
Lee, J. (2013, March 14). Charts: This Is What Happens When You Defund Planned Parenthood.
Rosenbaum, S. (2015, September 2). Planned Parenthood, Community Health Centers, And Women's Health: Getting The Facts Right.