President Obama’s Push to Permanently Protect Planned Parenthood

Photo: Womens eNews (CC)
By Amie Newman |

Earlier this year, Congress was set to vote on a bill to fund anti-Zika efforts. Everyone agreed that the funding was needed. Yet anti-reproductive rights legislators stalled the bill’s passage by refusing to allow any of the funds to prevent Zika to go to Planned Parenthood. The battle continues to this day.

Fed up — like many of us! — with ongoing efforts by anti-reproductive rights legislators to use Planned Parenthood as a pawn in their political game, President Obama, in his final months in office, is taking action. Last week, he proposed a new rule that would effectively bar states from defunding Planned Parenthood or any other Title X family planning provider for purely political reasons.

Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to family planning and reproductive health services for low-income people. The Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) provides grant funding for nearly 4,200 family planning clinics throughout the country to provide low-cost or free contraceptive services, counseling and other pregnancy and STI preventive services. The program does not and never has funded abortion care.

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The proposed rule specifically states that funding for any Title X family planning provider cannot be withheld for any reasons other than a provider’s “ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner.” To be clear: this means anti-abortion rights legislators cannot vote to withhold funding for Planned Parenthood simply because they also provide abortions.

Anti-reproductive rights lawmakers have a history of using Planned Parenthood as a stand-in for their political opposition to legal abortion services. Yet only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion related. The group is one of the largest providers of affordable family planning services, ensuring that 1.5 million people have access to birth control  every year. In some areas, Planned Parenthood is the sole provider of family planning services for low-income women and communities of color. Across the country, 4 million people rely on Title X providers.

When politicians successfully restrict Title X funding, low-income Americans are left without access to needed health care including cancer and STI screenings. According to the Department of Health and Human Services notice of proposed rule making for this new rule:

For example, in 2011, Texas reduced its contribution to family planning services, and also re-competed subawards of Title X funds using a tiered approach. The combination of these actions decreased the Title X provider network from 48 to 36 providers, and the number of Title X clients served was reduced dramatically…the number of Title X clients served decreased from 259,606 in 2011 to 166,538 in 2015.

Politicians have tried to reduce or bar state funding for Title X family planning providers in other states as well. According to ThinkProgress, since 2011, seven states have passed laws making it harder for Planned Parenthood to receive Title X funding. Most recently, in Florida, a federal judge shot down a law that would have defunded two Planned Parenthood health centers in the state. In one county alone, 1,820 clients are served by the family planning provider that would have been excluded, and there was no agreed upon plan for how those clients’ needs would have been met.

When politicians play games with funding for Planned Parenthood health centers or other Title X providers based on politics, it’s women who suffer the most. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 6 in 10 women who access care from a family planning health center consider it their main source of health care. For 4 in 10, it’s their only source of care.

Title X services have a “dramatic effect” on the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States, helping to prevent approximately 1 million unintended pregnancies in 2010. The Title X program also contributes to reducing maternal mortality rates, and premature births.

In one of his last moves in a long line of supportive moves on behalf of Planned Parenthood and women’s health, President Obama is working hard to protect necessary access to affordable reproductive and sexual health care. DSHS is currently accepting comments until October 7, 2016 on the proposed rule. They will then decide whether to issue a final version. If you’d like to show your support for Planned Parenthood, add your name to this letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell.  

In a statement, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said,

This will make a real difference in so many people’s lives. The Obama Administration is protecting access to health care for millions of people. Women in nearly half the states in this country have faced political attacks on cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic care. This rule makes it clear that politicians cannot ignore the law as they pursue their agenda to stop women from getting the care they need.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Summer says:

    I think that the steps Obama has been making towards the end of his presidency to continue funding for Planned Parenthood, and other clinics that are similar, is imperative for the rights of women. Many politicians, and Americans, throughout the United States hear the name “Planned Parenthood” and immediately jump to the thought of abortion. This post does a great job at showing that Planned Parenthood is not a company based on abortions, and it stated that only 3% of their services are even involved with abortions. Planned Parenthood provides opportunities to women, and some men, to learn about their bodies, pregnancy options, STI test screenings, and so many more medical/health issues that women may not be able to discuss at their personal doctor’s offices for whatever reason. I think that Politicians have gone out of their way to blame Planned Parenthood and other health clinics for abortion in the United States, when in reality Planned Parenthood has done nothing to go out of their to make women think abortion is the only option. By defunding Planned Parenthood, not only would the government be limiting the access that lower income families have to certain health care, they would be limiting the resources available to women of all social classes to get the information they need to make responsible, planned decisions about their reproductive rights and sexual decisions. If anti-reproductive rights people are so concerned with banning abortion, they should be considering supporting Planned Parenthoods efforts in providing affordable birth control to everyone, thus reducing unplanned pregnancies and abortions in the process. I think that the work President Obama is doing immensely helps women keep their voices heard in the reproductive rights movement. More people need to start advocating for places like Planned Parenthood and shed light on the fact that these facilities are SO much more than just places where women are informed about abortion.

    • Amy says:

      While I am in agreement that reproductive services should be provided to underserved communities, I am more concerned with the manner in which the taking and disposing of 300,000-350,000 lives per year is discussed. Education of moral standard, primary prevention efforts, contraceptive measures…isn’t this where our dollars should be spent? How did the taking of a life become a calucation?

  2. Haley says:

    I like this article because I feel that it makes people think about what they truly believe is right from wrong. I know there is a lot of people in the world that are against planned family planning and my question to them is why? What is their reasoning for not wanted to help low income people make a family and be able to support it. I think Obama is bringing the awareness to the United States to show them how important this actually is. He wants everyone to understand that these people deserve a fair opportunity to have a family. Not everyone in the world is financially stable enough to support a family. We want babies to be made and when those babies are born they should be able to live a life at ease. I believe that Obama is helping this country stay strong because everyone deserves to be happy with a family. The Title X is available to help people that need the help. Think about it… If you were pregnant with no money, wouldn’t you want someone to help you get on your feet and allow you to give your child the best life possible? This will give you the ability to provide for your family in any way that you can. I think its great that Obama is helping these family planning services to be able to continue to have funding for all of the country. There will always be people that disagree with this decision but when you sit down and actually thing about it; there is a lot of positives to this new law that is arising. In the Article, it talks about how there are seven states that have passed laws to where the funding is harder to be receives by the Title X companies. I don’t understand why these states are seeing it as an issue. I know some people are probably thinking that their money can be used in a better way but then that is when you just need to put yourself in their situation and think about if it were you that needed help with starting your family. What would you want people to do?

  3. Abby Q says:

    I support President Obama’s agenda to protect the funds for Planned Parenthood and Title X provisions. Within the past decade, I think we have made great strides in protecting women’s health and it would be very disastrous to defund these programs. I understand that some people do not support Planned Parenthood and Title X because of their personal views, but I think these programs are much bigger than that. First off, I believe that although elected officials are entitled to their own opinions, their main job is to act on behalf of their constituents. I think it is very important for future elected officials to understand that although they may not personally agree with Planned Parenthood and Title X, a majority of Americans do, and therefore the funds for the programs should be protected. Secondly, under Title X, the Department of Health and Human Services funds low-cost contraceptive, counseling and STI preventative services for citizens of low-income status. As a result, defunding Title X would become an issue of social injustice. People of lower socio-economic status already have higher STI and unplanned pregnancy rates and cutting this funding would just exacerbate the issues. A common misconception by people in favor of cutting the funding for Title X, is that Title X funds abortions. Title X does not and has never funded abortions, therefore the argument is irrelevant. Even if Title X did fund abortions, I do not think that is enough of a reason to defund the program all together. Abortions have been legal in the United States for over 40 years and we need to provide safe and proper abortion care. When abortion facilities are not available to women who want an abortion, it does not always stop them from getting one. It just increases the chance that they will engage in an abortion practice that is unsafe and often results in serious illnesses and even death. I think it is very awesome that President Obama is fighting in his last few months in office to protect the funds for Planned Parenthood and Title X and I very much so hope he succeeds.

  4. Deborah Scanlon says:

    I support this important effort to protect funds for family planning services. This right should never be taken away.