Planned Parenthood Defunding: Family Planning's Not a GOP Family Value?


Sandra Fish

When it comes to family planning, apparently the ability to decide whether or when to have a child isn't part of Republican family values.

That's the message the GOP-controlled House sent by voting to cut not only all of Planned Parenthood's $75 million in federal funding for family planning but also the entire $317 million Title X budget. Title X money helps pay for birth control, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, breast and cervical cancer testing, prenatal care, sex education and vasectomies for men. About 4.7 million Americans get health care from clinics funded by Title X money, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Indiana Rep. Mike Pence represented his successful gutting of the funding as a victory in preventing abortion, even though the Hyde Amendment, enacted in 1977, prohibits federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. And President Barack Obama signed an executive order last year preserving the funding ban under the new health care reform law.

In addition to the money from from Title X, which was signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970, Planned Parenthood and other health care providers receive Medicaid money for health services to low-income people. Under Pence's amendment, approved in a 240-185 vote, Planned Parenthood wouldn't be allowed to receive any federal dollars, including money from Medicaid.

This assault on Planned Parenthood isn't new. Twelve years ago in Colorado, the state Legislature and health department took away Planned Parenthood's Title X funding by prohibiting family planning money for clinics that also offered abortions. Instead, the federal money has gone to health departments and independent clinics in the state. If the Title X money is cut, that means almost 50,000 people in Colorado might not get access to birth control and other health services.

Planned Parenthood estimates that one in five women have received health care from one of its 800 clinics at some point in their lives. I'm among them.

Almost 40 years ago, growing up in a rural community, a guidance counselor gathered together the girls in sixth and seventh grade. We all received copies of "Our Bodies, Ourselves," the now classic tome on women, health and sexuality. We were told about the dangers of having sex at a young age. We were also told that if we planned to have sex, we should consider using birth control -- and the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic was the place to get it.

I certainly didn't need such services then. But I did once I went to college. And for many young college women, Planned Parenthood is the first place they go to seek birth control.
There's a sliding fee scale, so if you don't have health insurance it's cheaper than going to a doctor's office. With more than 800 clinics around the nation, there's typically a Planned Parenthood nearby.

And, let's face it, going to Planned Parenthood to get birth control is easier for many young women than going to their family physician.

But let's face this, too. Almost 80 percent of Planned Parenthood's clientele are age 20 and over. Seventy-five percent of the people who use its services are at or below 150 percent of the poverty level -- $33,525 for a family of four in 2011.

Opponents of the House action hope to reverse the family planning cuts in the Senate, where Democrats have a narrow majority.

Guttmacher, which tracks statistics on reproductive health and abortion, predicts the cut in Title X family planning money would mean a one-third increase in unplanned pregnancies -- and abortions.

Is that what the GOP hopes to achieve?