In its comprehensive campaign against women’s reproductive rights, Republican lawmakers have turned Planned Parenthood into the touchstone for anti-choice efforts. But as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein notes, the women’s health organization itself “isn’t about abortion.” Planned Parenthood’s services focus on contraception, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) testing and treatment, and cancer screening and prevention. Serving mostly adults who earn below 150 percent of the poverty line, Planned Parenthood “estimates it prevents more than 620,00 unintended pregnancies each year, and 220,000 abortions.” Only 3 percent of its services actually involve abortion procedures.
That 3 percent, however, serves as the foundation for the right-wing’s anti-choice zealotry and has spurred House Republicans and five GOP-led states to vote to defund the women’s health organization this year alone. But as Americans across the country are quickly discovering, the GOP’s dogmatic battles cause very real damage.
The first to defund Planned Parenthood, Indiana passed a law that cuts state and Medicaid funding to the organization’s 28 clinics in the state (only four of which provide abortion services). In effect since May 10, the law not only eliminates the clinics’ $1.3 million a year in Medicaid funds but also strips them of “roughly $150,000 in funding for prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.” While a record number of donations allowed clinics to continue services, that help ran out yesterday. Now, Indiana’s Planned Parenthood clinics are shutting down operations and leaving thousands of Hoosiers without access to health care:
— According to Indiana Planned Parenthood president Betty Cockrum, the clinics will stop treating Medicaid patients today. “Our 9,300 Medicaid patients, including those who had appointments Tuesday, are going to see their care disrupted.”
— Without the STD prevention funding, Planned Parenthood has to lay off two of their three intervention specialists, or “health workers who track down the partners of someone who tests positive for an STD and ensure they are tested and treated.” Planned Parenthood is now left with a single specialist to address STD testing and treatment for the entire state.
— To reduce costs, all 28 clinics will close tomorrow and employees will be sent home without pay. Only one clinic in Indianapolis will stay open Wednesday but will close Thursday.
— Should the law remain in place, Planned Parenthood stated that “it must close eight” of its clinics: “two Indianapolis locations and clinics in Bedford, Hammond, Michigan City, New Albany, Terre Haute and Muncie.” The shuttered clinics would significantly restrict help for the 85,000 Hoosiers the states’ clinics currently serve.
Hoosiers are not the only Americans feeling the full weight of the GOP’s anti-choice attack. Planned Parenthood in Minnesota announced yesterday that it will close six clinics of its 24 clinics because of budget cuts to Title X funding for low-income women and families. None of the six clinics perform abortions, “but provided services ranging from contraception to cervical cancer screenings to testing for sexually-transmitted diseases.”
The irony of the GOP’s anti-choice dogma is that the attack on family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood actually serve to increase the number of abortions in the U.S. As the Guttmacher Institute reports, high abortion rates reflect a greater incidence of unintended pregnancies that often result from a lack of access to effective contraception and to quality health care. The factors that lead to higher abortion rates are the same factors Planned Parenthood seeks to address. Indeed Guttmacher noted that, had the state’s Republican lawmakers successfully eliminated Title X funding as proposed, “Minnesota would see a 17 percent increase in unintended pregnancies [and] a 24 percent increase in abortions.”