OF ALL the magical thinking that has gone into Republican proposals to replace Obamacare, none has been more fanciful than the argument accompanying efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. The yarn that has been spun is that other health-care providers would easily absorb the patients left adrift if Planned Parenthood could no longer receive Medicaid reimbursements. In truth, there is no way community health-care centers cited by Republicans as an alternative could fill the gap. In truth, millions of women would lose access to critical health care.
A succession of experts, including from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Partnership for Women & Families, has consistently refuted claims that community health centers, which receive federal funds to provide health care to low-income people, would be able to pick up the slack if Planned Parenthood were cut off from Medicaid. Planned Parenthood offers high-quality health care, including birth-control services and cancer screenings, to more than 2.4 million Americans at 650 affiliated health centers every year.
The Post’s Kim Soffen, using data from the Guttmacher Institute, detailed how federally qualified health centers, already struggling under their patient loads, would be overwhelmed with demand from new patients in need of services. Planned Parenthood, The Post reported, serves “one-third of all contraception clients among family-planning clinics nationwide” and in some states sees up to six times as many patients as the health centers do. Rural areas would be hit particularly hard, and the effects would be felt immediately. Unlike other parts of proposed GOP overhauls of the Affordable Care Act, there would be no delay in triggering the Planned Parenthood provision.
“Political convenience, not a viable policy proposal” was how Guttmacher characterized the argument that community health centers would become the main source of federally funded family planning. A further complication is that the community centers themselves face uncertainty if the Affordable Care Act is overhauled with the dramatic cuts to Medicaid that are envisioned in the Republican proposals.
The impulse to defund Planned Parenthood is grounded, illogically, in opposition to abortion. Set aside the fact that abortion is legal and constitutionally protected. More salient, perhaps, is the fact that federal law already bars the use of federal dollars for abortions except in rare cases. So what is gained by depriving poor and working women of the basic health services that Planned Parenthood provides — and that no one else can provide? Anyone voting to deprive Planned Parenthood of Medicaid reimbursements should have to answer that question.
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