Health

The Consequences Of Defunding Planned Parenthood

CREDIT: AP Photo/Nick Ut, File

Planned Parenthood supporters rally for women's access to reproductive health care

Defunding Planned Parenthood clinics leaves some poor women unable to access the most effective forms of birth control, according to a new study from Texas-based researchers.

Experts from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a multi-year research project that’s tracking reproductive health outcomes in the Lone Star State, examined data from women who rely on Medicaid after GOP legislators stripped funds from Planned Parenthood in 2013.

Among women in the public health program, there was a 35 percent decline in claims for IUDs and implants — and a dramatic 27 percent spike in births — after Planned Parenthood was kicked out of Texas’ family planning network. Those numbers suggest that disadvantaged women are struggling to get the contraceptive services they need and are instead going on to give birth.

“The U.S. continues to have higher rates of unintended pregnancies than most rich nations, and we know that U.S. and Texas women face barriers as they try to access preventative services,” Amanda Jean Stevenson, one of the lead authors of the study and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas of Austin, said in a statement accompanying the study results. “It’s a public health issue that Texas women struggle to achieve their reproductive goals.”

Previous research examining Planned Parenthood’s patient base has confirmed that pulling support for the national women’s health organization disproportionately harms low-income Americans who don’t have anywhere else to go for affordable contraceptive services. In a recent survey of Texas patients themselves, more than half of them said they’ve faced at least one barrier to getting the reproductive health services they need in the years since politicians made changes to the publicly funded family planning network.

Reproductive health advocates are pointing to the new results as proof that GOP lawmakers’ focus on attacking Planned Parenthood — a mission that intensified last year thanks to a misleading video campaign claiming the organization is illegally trafficking fetal tissue — could have terrible consequences for economically disadvantaged people across the country.

“This new research shows the devastating consequences for women when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood,” Cecile Richards, the president of the group, said this week. “Texas is fast becoming a cautionary tale for politicians in Ohio, Utah, and other states targeting care at Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood opponents typically say the organization is not a critical health provider, and suggest women can simply seek family planning services elsewhere if Planned Parenthood clinics end up closing. But there’s little evidence that other clinics in the country’s struggling family planning network can actually bear that increased patient load.

In some GOP-led states where lawmakers have gone after Planned Parenthood, they’ve offered a list of health care providers they claim are viable alternatives. But closer scrutiny of those lists has revealed they actually include specialty providers like dermatologists and dentists — not exactly the kinds of doctors who write prescriptions for birth control.