BEHIND CLOSED doors, without even a celebratory Tweet, Donald Trump two weeks ago signed a law that reversed an Obama administration order banning states from defunding Planned Parenthood. "Taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortion, plain and simple," House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
As falsehoods go, that one is a hardy perennial. Here are the facts. Like other health providers, Planned Parenthood clinics provide cancer screenings, birth control, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, then apply for reimbursement, most often through Medicaid or Title X, the 47-year-old law that funds for family planning and other health services to millions of low-income women.
Notice what's missing: abortion. Federal funding hasn't gone to pay for abortions for decades.
Recently, Republicans have trotted out a newer falsehood: Women can easily get the Title X services they now get from Planned Parenthood from community health centers. That's the apparent justification for a bill that passed the Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee last week. At least we think that's what its sponsor, John Eichelberger (R, Blair), was trying to say - if even he knew, since at one point he admitted he didn't know what services Planned Parenthood provides.
The bill, SB300, doesn't name Planned Parenthood, but the organization clearly is the legislation's target. It establishes a hierarchy of health services organizations for the disbursal of funds that favors "primary care" hospitals and health centers. Organizations that specialize in women's health services (that is, Planned Parenthood) are not on the list. It also says family planning funds may not go to organizations that also perform abortions.
So because Planned Parenthood specializes in women's health services, it shouldn't be allowed to provide women's health services. So women should not be able to get family planning services at Planned Parenthood clinics because they can't also get treatment there for allergies or diabetes. This is as nonsensical as it sounds.
It's because Planned Parenthood specializes in women's health that removing it as an option for these services would seriously endanger access for low-income women. Planned Parenthood is an integral part of the Commonwealth's women's health services network, serving 90,000 clients a year. That's a potential increase of tens of thousands of more clients at primary care centers, which would almost certainly impact the number of patients they could see for other reasons. Cut several strings in the health care safety net and eventually it will give way.
The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health organization, has estimated that family planning centers in Pennsylvania prevented 52,800 unplanned pregnancies in 2014, which likely would have led to 19,000 more abortions. So reducing access to family planning services has real life consequences, as states like Texas and Kansas already have learned. When Texas slashed its family planning budget, it saw not only an increase in abortions but in maternal mortality rates. Unless we act, it could happen here too.
What You Can Do: SB300 now moves to the full Pennsylvania Senate for a vote, although Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto it if were to become law. Call your state senator. Tell her/him to oppose this bill because it will jeopardize access to women's health care in Pennsylvania. Find advice at plannedparenthoodpa.org