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Dark future of US healthcare without Planned Parenthood

As Republicans prepare to defund Planned Parenthood nationally, those left to provide contraception and other services in US states that have already done so say women of color and from low-income groups will be hit the hardest

By Molly Redden  /  The Guardian

Her county, which lost the Johnson Creek Planned Parenthood in 2013, bumps up against Ryan’s congressional district.

“I’m not pro-abortion or anything,” she said. “But I can tell you nothing ever replaced those services for uninsured people.”

The clinics in Johnson Creek closed because lawmakers in Wisconsin, as in Texas, approved a series of family planning cuts targeted directly at Planned Parenthood.

Today, Scott said, when the Jefferson County Health Department gets calls from low-income women looking for a place to obtain contraception, staff recommend they travel to another county — where there is still a Planned Parenthood.

Chippewa County, Wisconsin, also lost its Planned Parenthood clinic.

Then-director of health for the county Jean Durch recalled that after the closure, there was no place in Chippewa for women to receive STI tests, even though her department sought the funding to make it happen.

“We never were able, before I retired, to pick up the full complement of services” of Planned Parenthood, she said.

And Shawano County, Wisconsin, which is experiencing a flare-up in gonorrhea and which the state government recently designated a hot-spot for new chlamydia infections, is still feeling the pressure.

After the Planned Parenthood there closed, former patients faced significant waiting lists to see a doctor at local community health clinics. The health department did not know where to send women for certain services.

“The clinic that closed in Shawano served the whole county,” Shawano County health director Jaime Bodden said.

Not just women on Medicaid, she said, but women with stingy insurance and women with no insurance at all. Now, the county health department is virtually on its own as it combats the region’s rising STI rates.

“It’s something that we still often talk about,” she said. “We say, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have Planned Parenthood in town?’”

Planned Parenthood officials say Wisconsin would continue to be hard-hit if the US Congress went through with its plans for defunding. A disproportionate number of its patients there are Medicaid beneficiaries and women of color — groups of people who already face barriers to accessing care.

Already, some of their patients are worried about gaps in their health care if Planned Parenthood were to disappear.

“I have to get that care,” said Courtney Kessler, 22, of Madison, Wisconsin, who has a family history of ovarian cancer and has gone to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings and contraception for seven years. She is on a public safety net program that covers the costs.

“I don’t know where else I would go. I would have to spend time finding somewhere else to go, and worry about, can I afford it? And worry about, am I getting the same quality of care I get with Planned Parenthood? It’s only making it more difficult for people already having struggles,” she said.

Planned Parenthood operates 22 locations in 15 Wisconsin counties, with just two providing abortion services. A new survey conducted by healthcare consulting firm Health Management Associates, paid for by Planned Parenthood, concluded that in seven of those counties there are no viable alternatives to Planned Parenthood for family planning services. In four other counties, there is only one viable alternative.

Two counties that would have no alternative if Planned Parenthood were to close — Racine and Walworth — comprise part of Ryan’s district.

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