It is fine if you believe that abortion should be illegal. However, that is not the debate at-issue when considering whether to support the efforts of Planned Parenthood. Indeed, federal law (the Hyde Amendment) already prohibits the use of federal spending to fund abortion. Extreme politicians have mislabeled the cruel effort to “defund” Planned Parenthood under the auspices of blocking the ability of a woman to obtain an abortion procedure. The current and on-going efforts to block millions of patients (mostly people of color and many of whom live in rural areas) from reproductive health care is simply counter to the ideals of the conservative movement.
The “defund” Planned Parenthood label being thrown into the mix is an attractive catch-phrase for a public that has become appropriately concerned about government over-spending. However, the misnamed effort would serve to block millions of patients who depend on Medicaid and other public health care programs from accessing mundane healthcare such as breast-cancer screenings and birth-control.
In many cases, Planned Parenthood is the chosen healthcare provider to millions of our citizens and yet, it is the conservative wing of our government that yelled the loudest when the Affordable Health Care for America Act (ObamaCare) was passed into law and sought to criticize the “keep your own doctor” claims made by President Obama. By defunding Planned Parenthood, conservatives would not only undermine the coveted “right” to keep one’s own doctor, but citizens would lose their chosen provider with nowhere else to turn for their most critical and common health care.
In sum, denying care will only risk people’s lives and well-being, and limit their choices — all in service of an extreme agenda that Americans overwhelmingly reject. Politicians like Vice President Mike Pence, who’s led the charge to attack care at Planned Parenthood, would hurt those who already face significant barriers to accessing health care, and as such are some of our most vulnerable people. Planned Parenthood intends to do everything in its power to stop them.
The “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” organization recently published the following FAQs regarding Congress’ current efforts to gut Planned Parenthood.
Q: Why is being able to access health care at a Planned Parenthood center so important?
A: To begin with, many of Planned Parenthood’s patients have no other accessible health care options.
If Planned Parenthood health centers can’t provide care for them, nobody will. In fact, in more than 20% of the counties where Planned Parenthood health centers operate, there are no other health care providers who serve patients who rely on safety-net providers.
But that’s not the only problem.
Q: If Planned Parenthood health centers shut down, won’t other providers just absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients?
A: No. Even in areas where other providers exist, those providers won’t be able to take up the slack.
There simply aren’t enough reproductive health care providers out there to pick up the slack for the care Planned Parenthood centers provide. Per year, Planned Parenthood health centers provide birth control for 2 million people, as well as over 4 million STD tests and treatments; over 360,000 breast exams; over 270,000 Pap tests.
Meanwhile, more than two thirds of states already report difficulty ensuring enough providers for Medicaid, the nation’s largest publicly funded health care program. Providers of ob-gyn care who accept Medicaid, such as Planned Parenthood, are in particularly short supply. In addition, Planned Parenthood health centers are more likely than other safety-net family planning providers to provide the full range of birth control (including IUDs and implants) on-site and more likely to offer rapid-result HIV testing. It’s no wonder the American Public Health Association says it’s “ludicrous” for politicians to claim that other providers could simply absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients.
For many women in America, Planned Parenthood is the only place where they are able to get needed quality care.
Q: How many people would lose access to health care?
A: If extreme politicians shut down Planned Parenthood, 2.5 million patients would lose access to care.
Here’s the breakdown: Approximately 60% of Planned Parenthood’s patients access health care at its health centers through publicly funded programs like Medicaid or Title X. Legislation that “defunds” Planned Parenthood immediately blocks those people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood health centers. In addition, we know that politicians real goal is to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers across the country. If these politicians succeed, it will be a national health disaster and devastate care.
Q: How do we know that people will be hurt if they can’t get care at Planned Parenthood health centers?
A: When patients can no longer turn to Planned Parenthood for care, there are devastating results. We’ve already seen them firsthand at the state level.
In Texas, one study found that pregnancy-related deaths doubled after the state stopped reimbursing Planned Parenthood and imposed stringent funding cuts for women’s health — and 54% fewer patients in the state received care. In Wisconsin, fewer women could access lifesaving cancer screenings following the closure of Planned Parenthood health centers.
We also know that people will be hurt if Planned Parenthood health centers are forced to close their doors because so many people depend on Planned Parenthood for health care. Think about it: An estimated one in five American women visits Planned Parenthood health centers during her lifetime. Without Planned Parenthood’s approximately 650 health centers across the country, many patients would not have timely access to basic preventive health care.
Sean Erenstoft is a civil rights advocate in Los Angeles. More information can be obtained at www.erenstoft.com