Atlanta, GA - In tonight’s debate in the special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Karen Handel doubled down on positions that would be bad for Georgia women and families. She supports the American Health Care Act, which would rip health care away from 14 million people within a year and block patients from accessing essential care at Planned Parenthood.

Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Tonight, Karen Handel failed to present a single idea that would help women in Georgia get ahead and demonstrated that her agenda is downright dangerous. By doubling down on her failed policies and supporting the worst bill for women’s health in a generation, Handel showed how little regard she has for women’s health or rights. Georgians want reproductive health care champions like Jon Ossoff in Washington, not failed politicians like Karen Handel who will take women and families backwards.

Handel does not understand what’s at stake for Georgia women and families, campaigning on an extreme agenda of blocking access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers and allowing politicians to make health care decisions better left to women and their doctors. Here are the facts.

Karen Handel is out of touch with Georgians

FACT: 20 national polls all show overwhelming support for Planned Parenthood. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that 80% of American voters are opposed to “defunding” Planned Parenthood when they understand that it means blocking patents who rely on Medicaid from accessing preventive and essential health care. That follows a PerryUndem poll that show 74% of voters – including 57% of Trump voters – oppose actions that would prohibit women with low incomes from accessing birth control, well-woman care, and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood.

Karen Handel wants to block patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

FACT: When politicians talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, they’re talking about blocking low-income women from coming to us for breast exams, cancer screenings, birth control, and other care – the very services that keep women healthy and prevent unintended pregnancy.

FACT: Federal funding is not fungible. Federal funds are prohibited from covering abortion as a result of the prohibitive Hyde amendment (which Planned Parenthood opposes but follows), except in the dire circumstances of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is in jeopardy.  

FACT: The term “defunding” Planned Parenthood is a misnomer. There is no blank check that Planned Parenthood gets from the federal government, and it’s not a line item in the federal budget. Instead, this type of legislation would prevent millions of women who rely on Medicaid and/or other federal programs from accessing the health care provider that’s been there for them for decades. Federal law already blocks federal funding from going to abortion services. The provision about Planned Parenthood in Paul Ryan’s bill instead blocks people from accessing cancer screenings, birth control, HIV and STI testing, and other preventive and essential care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

FACT: According to Guttmacher, Planned Parenthood represents about 22% of all providers that offer abortion as a part of broader reproductive health care. There are hundreds of other hospitals, physician offices, and other clinics that provide abortions, in addition to receiving Medicaid reimbursements for preventive care. As the recent CBO score confirmed, only Planned Parenthood would be affected by the “defunding” provision.  

Karen Handel doesn’t know how mammograms work.

FACT: As every woman knows, you don’t get your mammogram at your doctor’s office or community health center. You get a referral for a radiology center. It works the same way at Planned Parenthood.

FACT: Planned Parenthood provides the kind of breast cancer screening that has saved women’s lives, and helps make sure women detect cancer early. Last year, Planned Parenthood provided hundreds of thousands of breast exams.

FACT: Planned Parenthood health centers provided nearly 6000,000 cancer screenings in 2015, including more than 320,000 breast exams and more than 300,000 Pap tests, and are critical for early detection and ensuring that patients are connected to any follow-up care they need right away.

FACT: In 2015, nearly 72,000 women had cancer that was detected early or whose abnormalities were identified through receiving care at a Planned Parenthood health center.

Expert after expert has agreed: Community health centers cannot simply absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients.

FACT: Expert after expert has resoundingly dismissed the idea that other providers could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients. In fact, Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the idea “ludicrous.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Partnership for Women and Families have said flat out they cannot.

FACT: Legislation denying access to care at Planned Parenthood was a health disaster in Texas. Two Texas public health investigators wrote in the Washington Post that when Texas passed legislation it was devastating – and shouldn't be repeated in the rest of the country. A significant number of women also lost or had reduced access to primary care providers as a consequence of limiting patient options. In Wisconsin, health care providers in the state confirmed that they didn’t absorb Planned Parenthood patients when health centers were forced to close.

FACT: Planned Parenthood health centers serve more contraceptive clients than any other publicly-funded health care provider, serving 32 percent of all contraceptive patients, even though Planned Parenthood health centers comprise just 6 percent of the provider network. [Source: GPR article, and previously released in April]

FACT: Fifty-six percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in rural or underserved areas. Planned Parenthood health centers provide preventive health care to many who otherwise would have nowhere to turn for care.

FACT: When lawmakers in Louisiana, Ohio, and Florida tried to block access to Planned Parenthood in the past, they suggested women could go to “alternative” providers for reproductive health care, including dentists, food banks, nursing homes, ENTs, elementary schools, rehabs, and retirement homes.

FACT: Blocking access to Planned Parenthood hurts people in communities who are struggling to get by the most – especially those with low incomes and those living in areas with no other quality health care providers. This disproportionately impacts people who already face structural barriers to accessing care including people of color, immigrants, young people, and members of the LGBTQ community – with those whose identities overlap facing multiple barriers.

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.