Planned Parenthood has a bitter history with Congress. Every election and legislative cycle, someone proposes that Planned Parenthood, with its alleged mishandling of medical practices and its abortion policies, be defunded.
President Donald Trump is pro-life, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is vocally in favor of defunding the organization that specializes in sexual, reproductive and LGBTQ+ health. Now, with a Congress ever more inclined to enact anti-Planned Parenthood policies, we look at the facts behind the issue.
“Defund Planned Parenthood” is a solid campaign line, but it ignores the reality of Planned Parenthood’s source of funding. The health centers actually receive the bulk of their funds (around 75 percent) as reimbursements from Medicaid.
Medicaid is insurance for low-income people, and is funded both by individual states and the federal government. Planned Parenthood is, in effect, funded by how many patients they actually treat. Money also comes from the government’s Title X, which is another program targeted at providing healthcare to low-income people.
Other funds come from grants and donors. People are free to seek treatment from local health centers at present, and Planned Parenthood’s success is directly tied to the amount of people that go to them for help.
While Planned Parenthood is targeted for wasting tax dollars on services that could be offered elsewhere, it is also controversial for its abortion services.
In the 2014-2015 reporting year, Planned Parenthood allocated three percent of its services to abortions. The implicit — and oftentimes explicit — argument is that three percent is too high a percentage. Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, the Director of Communication at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, explained the issue further.
This effort, Lee-Gilmore said, was really about an individual’s ability to choose from whom and when they get health care. To block funding to Planned Parenthood is “an unconstitutional effort to ban Medicaid patients precisely because they’re socioeconomically disadvantaged.” She went on to note that the majority of patients, both in the Tulsa area and at all Planned Parenthood centers across the country, are minorities and people with lower incomes.
Lee Gilmore argues that disadvantaged groups rely on “the compassionate health care” at Planned Parenthood.
If Planned Parenthood was defunded, which would effectively shut down the organization, patients would have to go to local health clinics. Congress people have long championed local health centers as alternative options for Planned Parenthood patients.
When asked about the differences between Planned Parenthood and other options, Lee-Gilmore said that “many community health centers do not offer comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care or long term birth control like IUDs.” She also mentioned that community health centers often struggle to keep up with patient demand for appointments, up to and including “weeks and months worth of wait times.” Planned Parenthood, in contrast, “prides itself on same day or next day appointment scheduling.”
As it stands, Tulsa’s Planned Parenthood sees Medicaid patients every day. In fact, “Tulsa is really unique in that they offer pediatric and primary care” as well as “a comprehensive scope of care.” Lee-Gilmore added that Congress has not made any final decisions yet, and that citizens should understand that they can still impact the future of Planned Parenthood by contacting their Senate representatives (many of whom are up for reelection in 2018). Many people across the US have already done so, placing tens of thousands of calls to their government representatives.
Lee-Gilmore ended the interview by commenting on a potential issue with local health centers: “What you have at the end of the day is a capacity issue.” Many health centers could not handle the extra patients that would otherwise go to Planned Parenthood without being overwhelmed with the demand for their services.