When the GOP released its proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) the other week, it was clear Planned Parenthood is in its sights, writes columnist Nicole Brodeur.
We have got to stop meeting like this, I told Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards over the phone the other day.
She laughed, a little ruefully.
If only lawmakers would leave Richards and her colleagues to their work helping women — and men — get the health care they need.
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If only people would accept the fact that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s wide range of services are abortions, and that not a dime of the $500 million in federal dollars the organization receives funds abortions.
Instead, when the GOP released its proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) the other week, Planned Parenthood was clearly in its sights.
The proposed plan would cut funding to any organization that is a member of a family-planning “safety net” (check); provides abortion services (check); and, as a network, receives over $350 million in federal funding (check).
In its report on the AHCA, the Congressional Budget Office stated: “ … according to those criteria, only Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates and clinics would be affected.”
President Trump has said that he would maintain the $400 million in Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood — 40 percent of its annual budget — but only if it stopped providing abortions.
If the plan was truly going after health-care providers that performed abortions, it would deny Medicaid reimbursements to all hospitals that provide them.
But no. Just Planned Parenthood.
“They are singling out the only national women’s health-care provider in the country,” Richards told me. “It’s clearly for political purposes, and it’s going to create chaos for women in America.”
You know what else it’s going to create? Unwanted pregnancies.
Cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, and you cut off access to family planning and birth control. As a result, you increase the likelihood of women getting pregnant with children they can’t afford.
Meanwhile, Trump has proposed a budget that would dismantle the after-school programs that low-income mothers and children depend on.
So we won’t help you with family planning, won’t help you if you get pregnant. We won’t help you if you choose to have an abortion, and we won’t help you if you have a child you can’t afford and need help with food or care or housing.
This is making America great again?
Oh, and gentlemen: Spare me your screeds about how women wouldn’t get pregnant if they could keep their legs together (a tired refrain in my inbox).
Instead, consider this choice tweet from @summerbrennan in response to the AHCA that pretty much says it all: “Ten out of ten pregnancies involve a man at some point.”
Men also make up 10 percent of Planned Parenthood’s clients.
Richards told me of visiting a clinic in San Diego and seeing a waiting room full of men with the TV tuned to ESPN.
“Turns out it was Vasectomy Day,” she said.
Kent Thomas, 26, is a student getting his master’s degree in social work. He went to Planned Parenthood in Tacoma for the first time two years ago to be tested for a sexually transmitted disease.
At first, he was embarrassed. He parked his car a couple of blocks away and ran inside. No more.
“After my experience at Planned Parenthood, and realizing it could be defunded, I came out as a proud Planned Parenthood patient,” he said. “Vasectomies, vaccines for (the human papillomavirus). It’s crucial.
“We have seen what can happen when the government takes away health care,” he said, citing underfunded HIV/AIDS spending during President Ronald Reagan’s term. “This is repeating history.”
If that isn’t enough, there’s plenty to prove that Planned Parenthood is making great progress with the federal funding it receives.
Last month, King County Executive Dow Constantine held a news conference at Planned Parenthood offices in Seattle to announce a 55 percent drop in the teen birthrate in King County between 2008 and 2015.
More than 28,000 people in King County receive health care from Planned Parenthood at eight clinic locations. King County’s four Public Health family-planning clinics meet the needs of just 6,000 people.
“Nothing can replace Planned Parenthood and the health services they provide,” Constantine said when the statistics were announced last month. “And it’s unconscionable for Congress and the White House to even consider reducing access to birth control and preventive health care.”
Richards knew this was coming. She’s been head of Planned Parenthood since 2006, testifying before Congress about her organization’s commitment to health. And still, GOP lawmakers see abortion services and nothing else.
“They’re really missing the point,” Richards said. “When they start putting political barriers in front of women needing care, it just doesn’t go well.
“If members of Congress can choose where to go for their own health care, women should have that same right.”