Blog | Thursday, March 2, 2017

What defunding Planned Parenthood really means

Planned Parenthood clinics have been a political football for over a decade. Planned Parenthood operates about 650 health centers across the United States and 2.7 million men and women visit the clinics each year. In fact, an estimated 1 in 5 women has received care from Planned Parenthood at least once in her life. For many women, Planned Parenthood may be the only place to receive reproductive health care near where they live. They provide basic women's preventive care (pap smears, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, counseling, contraception, intrauterine device placement and long acting reversible contraception) and even basic primary care.

Of all the health services Planned Parenthood provides, they report that about 3% are for abortion. Most women receive other services at the same time (pregnancy testing, future contraception) that can skew this number and critics say the abortion percentage is higher (calculated to as high as 7%), but there is no dispute that Planned Parenthood provides more needed health care for women that goes far beyond terminating pregnancies.

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act would ban Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid reimbursements and federal family-planning funds, accounting for loss of over $500 million in government funding per year, about two-fifths of its total revenue. It is important to know that Medicaid funds already cannot be used for pregnancy termination unless the mother's life is in danger. So defunding Planned Parenthood is really defunding women's health care. Period.

We currently have a shortage of primary care doctors in the United States and fewer doctors have sufficient training and expertise in the full range of reproductive health services. Planned Parenthood provides this needed care.

Defunding Planned Parenthood is an act that Congress should not undertake. American women deserve better.

This post originally appeared at Everything Health. Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.