Kira was 28 years old, recently married and about to start her first real job fresh out of graduate school. During this time of transition, though, she was uninsured. So, when she missed a period, she turned to her local Planned Parenthood. After a conversation with a nurse practitioner at the nonprofit, Kira ultimately decided to continue her unexpected pregnancy—her daughter is now five. “I think we paid $20 for that visit, which, to put it mildly, changed my life,” she shared in a testimonial for Planned Parenthood Maryland. “It sometimes seems to me that, in the understandable heat of the abortion debate, we lose sight of the more mundane, but no less critical, services Planned Parenthood provides: affordable, accessible health care and non-judgmental counseling. Planned Parenthood was there for me, and I will always be grateful.”
Kira’s story is just one example of the vast array of patients who will be impacted if President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers have their way and block federal funding from Planned Parenthood. Last week, the president released his proposed fiscal budget (called—oddly predictably—“A New Foundation for American Greatness”), which includes a provision that strips federal dollars from any provider that offers abortions. “This is the first time a president has ever singled out a health care provider in the federal budget like this,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement last Thursday. “It reinforces the most troubling trend we've seen this year: politicians going to every length possible to come after Planned Parenthood and hack away access to care.”
And although Planned Parenthood reports only 3% of its services are abortion-related—and the federal funds it receives as reimbursement do not actually go to those procedures (the Hyde Amendment—which bars the use of federal funds towards abortion except to save the life of a woman, or in cases of rape or incest—prohibits that)—the organization would, essentially, be “defunded.”
Not only will low-income patients lose access to affordable care—if Planned Parenthood loses its Medicaid and Title X family planning grants (which is a federal program dedicated to providing women with affordable birth control) these individuals will have to go elsewhere for, or forego altogether, their care—but so will people of color and LGBTQ individuals and families who depend on the provider for a safe space.
According to Planned Parenthood’s 2014–2015 annual report, scores of women and men (you heard right: MEN) received health screenings from their local health centers. In addition to conducting STD testing and cancer screenings, as well as offering contraception, the organization also does pregnancy tests, prenatal care, and family planning services—services that Planned Parenthood provides to one in five women in the U.S.
If Planned Parenthood is defunded, it will most likely have to close health centers across the country, and without access to affordable and reliable birth control, the number of unplanned pregnancies will certainly rise—in fact, that’s exactly what happened in Texas when the local government “defunded” Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state.
What’s even more frightening is that, to be a developed country, the U.S. has a ridiculously high maternal mortality rate (which is actually increasing). According to a recent report in Slate by two maternal-fetal medicine specialists, three factors contributing to high maternal mortality rates are poverty, access to health care, and access to family planning, including contraception and abortion service.
As the writers note, “decreased access to contraception will mean that fewer pregnancies will start at times when women have planned—financially, emotionally, and yes, medically—to have the best pregnancies they can have. This will be especially true for women at the margins, women who can’t afford contraception, and women who have not had regular access to medical care throughout their lives.”
And it’s important to note: The women who will be affected by federal cuts Donald Trump hopes to make to Planned Parenthood run the gamut—they are happily married women who simply aren’t ready for children; they are women in relationships who have been sexually assaulted and need somewhere to turn for help; they are women who have an STI who need to manage their pregnancy to make sure their baby doesn’t contract the disease; they are women who depend on Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical (among other) cancer screenings, prevention, and treatment. As Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said: “Bottom line: We've never seen a budget so detrimental to women's lives."
Another fun tidbit: Yesterday, federal officials began drafting a rule to abolish the Obamacare mandate requiring employers to cover birth control in health-insurance plans...