Sat, Jan 21, 2017 - Page 9 News List

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

The survey also concluded that many alternatives offer limited hours and do not stock all the most effective contraceptives — making it questionable that they are truly alternatives to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood chief medical officer Raegan McDonald-Mosley said this pattern holds across the country. In 332 of the 491 counties where it had locations in 2010, the latest year numbers were available, Planned Parenthood served at least half of the women obtaining contraception through the public safety net. In 103 of those counties, Planned Parenthood was the only safety net provider for family planning.

“We play a hugely important role in the family planning safety net around the country,” McDonald-Mosley said. If those clinics were no longer options for many women, “It would truly be a national healthcare disaster.”

Proponents of defunding Planned Parenthood have circulated their own surveys.

In 2015, lawmakers and anti-abortion activists distributed maps and lists claiming there were thousands of government-funded health clinics able to take on Planned Parenthood patients. Several news outlets revealed that these lists included dentists, jails and food banks.

Still, many of the dots on such maps represent clinics that really do offer the same services as Planned Parenthood. The question is, can they take on potentially millions of new patients?

Many public health advocates are skeptical.

“Planned Parenthood treats about 2 million women on Medicaid and community health clinics in total serve about 25 million — everybody from infants to 90-year-olds,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health policy at George Washington University who has worked in the field of community health for several decades.

“They have wait lists for the people they’re serving today, much less having to absorb all of Planned Parenthood’s patients as well,” she continued. “The notion they can suddenly ramp up their capacity to absorb all of the services Planned Parenthood can offer, the notion that overnight they can serve two million more people who need reproductive health services is absurd. It displays, to my mind, an astounding ignorance of how the health system works.”

Planned Parenthood has not produced an estimate of how many of its clinics might close, and where, if the group were defunded.

In Texas, though, a nascent body of research suggests that excluding Planned Parenthood from the safety net has negative consequences even when the cuts do not force clinics to shut their doors.

These studies have measured what happens not when Planned Parenthood clinics closed, but when women enrolled in Texas’ Medicaid-like program can no longer use their insurance at Planned Parenthood.

One study, from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project of the University of Texas-Austin, followed women in Midland (before the clinic shut down) and Houston who relied on Planned Parenthood for Depo Provera, an injectable contraceptive. They found that 20 percent of women who wanted to stay on Depo-Provera missed their next dose.

These women faced a small but real increase in their odds of getting pregnant. About 25 percent became pregnant — versus just 8 percent of the women who did not miss their next dose.

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