“Save The Babies Or Save The Budget”: Dear Conservatives, Your Opposition To Family Planning Comes With A Huge Price Tag
Conservatives have long painted themselves as the guardians of fiscal sanity. But they have also fashioned themselves as the guardians of the innocent babies being preyed upon at Planned Parenthood. Even though abortions make up just 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides—and many clinics don’t provide them at all because of restrictions placed on the funding they receive—conservatives have long held a legislative grudge against the organization and have even broadened their contempt to other family planning clinics.
That deep-held distaste for women’s health providers led Texas lawmakers last year to slash $73 million from all of its family planning services and shift the money to other areas of the budget. This blunt instrument hit all of the state’s women’s health providers, but was meant to target Planned Parenthood and deny it taxpayer dollars—even though the clinics that received state subsidies for care never performed abortions.
This may be in line with their staunch opposition to what they see as a baby-killer, but that ideology comes with quite the price tag. News has surfaced that for the two-year period between 2014 and 2015, poor women are expected to deliver nearly 24,000 babies that they wouldn’t otherwise have had if they had access to state-subsidized birth control. Those extra births will cost taxpayers as much as $273 million, with between $103 million to $108 million of that hitting the state’s general revenue budget alone. Much of the cost comes from caring for those infants through Medicaid.
Lawmakers may not care about what this means for the lives of the low-income women who are now bearing and raising children whose births they would have otherwise prevented had they had access to contraception. But conservatives, the fiscally responsible party, are now thinking twice about the budgetary implications. The New York Times reported last week that “a bipartisan coalition is considering ways to restore some or all of those family planning dollars, as a cost-saving initiative if nothing else.” It’s not like the budget hit should come as a surprise, however. When the cuts were initially debated, an estimate was circulated that they would lead to an extra 284,000 births at a cost of $239 million. Yet the cuts passed, “a price that socially conservative legislators were willing to pay in their referendum on Planned Parenthood,” as the Times reports.
And unfortunately, the ideological battle against Planned Parenthood will not be brought to a complete cease-fire, even in the face of these stark numbers. Planned Parenthood will almost certainly be excluded from any reinstated family planning funding because of an existing ban against taxpayer money going to providers who are “affiliated” with clinics that perform abortions, even if they don’t do so themselves. While there are other women’s health providers in the state, RH Reality Check’s Andrea Grimes set out to find out whether the hundreds of listings on Texas’s website actually provide the services women need. She found that “many of them don’t provide any kind of contraceptive care, don’t take Medicaid Women’s Health Program clients, or are simply misleading duplicate listings.”
And the ones that do offer the right services likely won’t be able to meet the huge increase in demand. Grimes cites a study that found that Planned Parenthood accounted for half of the state’s women’s healthcare, serving nearly 52,000 clients. The remaining providers mostly serve ten or fewer patients. That’s just not going to cut it for all of the women who now need to find care.
Continuing to deny funding to Planned Parenthood will keep costing the state, even if other clinics see their funding reinstated. To the tune of an estimated $5.5 million to $6.6 million as a result of paying for the entire women’s health program on its own, rather than receiving the 90 percent federal matching funds, as well as paying for a higher number of births that will have to be covered by Medicaid funds.
Texas is a huge state, so its case sticks out like a sore thumb. But it’s not the only one to go after family planning services and Planned Parenthood. As the Guttmacher Institute reports, last year some states felt compelled by the federal push to ban federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood to look at whether providers in their states that use private funding for abortion should be barred from receiving state funding or, in some cases, federal Medicaid reimbursements. Currently, six states prohibit some providers from receiving family planning funds and in three the restrictions apply to those that provide abortion or are affiliated with agencies that do.
So conservative lawmakers across the country will now be faced with a choice: save the babies or save the budget. Because it’s clear that you can’t do both. Organizations that provide contraception—and, it must be said, abortions—not only do great service to the women who need to control their fertility and their lives. They do great service to taxpayers. By giving women access to contraception, publicly funded family planning organizations save us $3.74 for every dollar we spend in avoided Medicaid costs associated with unplanned births. Their services saved federal and state governments $5.1 billion in 2008.
As Texas has just found out, those aren’t imaginary numbers. They are very real. Whoever says that contraception and abortion aren’t economic issues should take a second look. They have a huge impact on women’s financial situations. But, perhaps higher on conservatives’ checklist, they have an enormous impact on the budget.
By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, December 10, 2012
If Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, were to win next month’s election, the harm to women’s reproductive rights would extend far beyond the borders of the United States.
In this country, they would support the recriminalization of abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they would limit access to contraception and other services. But they have also promised to promote policies abroad that would affect millions of women in the world’s poorest countries, where lack of access to contraception, prenatal care and competent help at childbirth often results in serious illness and thousands of deaths yearly. And the wreckage would begin on Day 1 of a Romney administration.
Mr. Romney has pledged that, on his first day in the White House, he would reinstate the “global gag rule,” the odious restriction that has been used to deny federal money for family-planning work abroad to any organization that provided information, advice, referrals or services for legal abortion or supported the legalization of abortion, even using its own money.
Merely talking about abortion could cost groups not only federal money, but also useful technical support and American-donated supplies of contraceptives, including condoms for distribution in the communities they serve.
The gag rule, also known as the “Mexico City policy,” was imposed by the last three Republican presidents, beginning with Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was rescinded by President Bill Clinton in 1993, then reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001. President Obama, fulfilling a campaign pledge, signed an executive order lifting the global gag rule shortly after taking office in 2009.
The gag rule did nothing to prevent use of government financing for abortions because that was already illegal under federal law. But it badly hampered the work of family-planning groups overseas, forcing clinic closures, reduced services and fee increases. It also violated principles of informed consent by requiring health care providers to withhold medical information from female patients. And, by stifling political debate on abortion-related issues and violating free speech principles, the gag rule badly undermined America’s credibility as it tries to promote democracy abroad.
Republican opponents of family planning and women’s reproductive autonomy in Congress have been trying to reinstate the gag rule by legislation. If elected, Mr. Romney has said he would do so with a stroke of the pen.
Mr. Romney also vows to renew another of George W. Bush’s shameful policies (which was ended by President Obama), which blocked the United States from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund. That fund supports programs in some 150 countries to improve poor women’s reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women and prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Romney has embraced the bogus charge that the Population Fund supports coerced abortions in China, ignoring a State Department investigation that found no evidence for that claim. In fact, the fund has helped promote a voluntary approach to family planning.
The annual federal contribution to the fund is now down to $35 million, compared with $55 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011; overall support for international family planning and reproductive health programs stands at $610 million — far short of the need. Even so, this amount of money pays for contraceptive services and supplies that reach more than 31 million women and couples, averting 9.4 million unintended pregnancies, 4 million abortions (three-quarters of them unsafe) and 22,000 maternal deaths annually, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
House Republicans want to cut the nation’s investment in international family planning severely. Mr. Romney’s record of bending to suit the most extreme elements of the Republican Party suggests that he may well go along on this critical issue as well.
By: Editorial Board, The New York Times, October 19, 2012
If you haven’t been worn down reading about Todd Akin’s bizarre and ignorant views about the female reproductive system, now turn to Texas, where women’s uteruses may soon have to move out of state to find health care. Late Tuesday night, a federal court of appeals ruled that Texas can exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program, which provides basic preventative care—like birth control and cancer screenings—for low-income women. The decision has terrifying implications in a state where women’s access to health care is already poor.
One in four women in Texas is uninsured, and the state also has the third-highest rate of cervical cancer in the country. In Texas, women’s health-care clinics serving low-income populations rely on two sources of funding: the Women’s Health Program and general state family-planning dollars. Lawmakers have attacked both streams.
In 2011, the state legislature slashed state funding for family planning—you know, the thing that prevents abortions—by two-thirds. A recent report from the Texas Observer revealed that 60 family planning facilities have already closed as a result of the cuts. While a full picture of the effect is still emerging, the Legislative Budget Board, a bipartisan committee, had estimated that when all was said and done, the cuts would lead to 20,000 additional births (which Medicaid would have to pay for). Projections show that around 180,000 women would lose health services.
Then there’s the damage to the state Women’s Health Program (WHP), a separate program that serves 130,000 low-income women. Created in 2005, the WHP is a crucial state service that provides preventative health care and family-planning services. It’s run through Medicaid, so the feds paid for 90 percent of the $40 million program. While it only serves women who are not pregnant, it saved around $75.2 million in 2009 by preventing a projected 6,700 births. The program seemed like a win-win; it decreased unplanned pregnancies and abortions, while increasing access to health care.
But the WHP may soon not exist, or at least not in a recognizable way. Lawmakers added new rules in 2011 that excluded Planned Parenthood from receiving funding. The trouble is, Planned Parenthood provided services to nearly half the women covered under the program and received about 25 percent of the program’s total funding last year. Barring the organization leaves many wondering whether those clinics left would meet demand.
Furthermore, the state violated federal policy by slashing Planned Parenthood funding, which means Medicaid can no longer foot the bill for the Women’s Health Program. Texas supposedly has a plan to transition to a state-run program by November 1; that plan will continue to exclude Planned Parenthood. The influential organization is fighting the state’s decision, and in October, the two parties begin court proceedings on whether Texas can permanently exclude the main provider of women’s health from its Women’s Health Program.
Yesterday’s decision means that between now and the court case, Texas can halt funding to Planned Parenthood clinics. It’s only a few months, but the clinics are already reeling from the family-planning cuts. The loss of WHP funding is a double whammy. Twelve Planned Parenthood clinics have already shut down, alongside the many clinics with no relation to the organization. Meanwhile, if the courts ultimately decide Texas cannot exclude Planned Parenthood from the WHP, the state may opt to shut down the program entirely.
Many, including the attorney general and Governor Rick Perry, celebrated the decision, and the state Health and Human Services Commission announced it would immediately halt funding to the group. Meanwhile, for the hundreds of thousands of low-income women in the state, there are fewer and fewer health-care options.
By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, August 22, 2012
Both states are in the news these past few weeks for trying to prevent women from getting health care at Planned Parenthood. It’s wrong, and it will have devastating consequences for women for years to come—and Mitt Romney wants to do it in all 50 states.
Romney said in November that he wants to eliminate the nation’s family-planning program, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970 and provides essential preventive health services to more than 5 million people a year, the vast majority of whom are poor and uninsured.
Beyond the millions of people who are helped by this health-care program, investing in family planning saves the government money—for every dollar spent on family planning, experts say taxpayers save around $4.
Romney said in March that, if elected president, he would “get rid of” Planned Parenthood. He clarified his remarks to say he would end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Either way, he would seek to dismantle a nationwide network of community-based health centers that one in five American women rely on for care at some point in their lives.
This isn’t about abortion. These health-care programs provide blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring, flu shots, breast-cancer screenings, Pap tests, and birth control. Planned Parenthood is the only medical care many women receive all year.
Michele Azzaro knows what Mitt Romney’s America would look like—because she’s already experiencing it in Texas.
Azzaro has been a Planned Parenthood patient in Dallas for more than 20 years. Planned Parenthood was there when she had a breast-cancer scare, and her local health center has been there when she needs her yearly cholesterol test.
Last year, Texas drastically cut its family-planning funding, the same way Mitt Romney says he would cut federal funding. Michele lost access to annual breast screenings and the birth-control pills she needs to manage her painful uterine fibroids.
She isn’t alone.
An estimated 160,000 women lost their health care when Texas slashed its family-planning program last year. Now, the state is trying to throw more women off health care by taking Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Women’s Health Program. Planned Parenthood health centers provide care to 52,000 women in the program.
Texas’s program provides low-income working women in Texas with lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, contraception, screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. The program was sponsored and implemented by Republicans less than a decade ago—an indication of how far to the right some in the party have gone in just a few years.
Planned Parenthood sued the state in federal court in order to continue providing these critical health services to women, and last week a federal appeals court blocked the state’s effort to deny women the health care they rely on at Planned Parenthood while the lawsuit proceeds.
Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed legislation that cuts state funding for Planned Parenthood’s preventive care. The new law could cut 4,000 women off from the health care they need.
What’s happening in Texas and Arizona isn’t about Planned Parenthood. It’s about Michele Azzaro—and the 3 million people a year who rely on us for cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.
Our patients aren’t making a political statement when they come to Planned Parenthood. But they’re not afraid to make a political statement to keep the health care they rely on when they vote in November.
Arizona’s governor threw yet another political volley at Planned Parenthood Friday night, inking a law aimed at preventing thousands of women on state Medicaid rolls from accessing family-planning services—including breast exams and pap smears—from organizations that also offer abortions.
Jan Brewer signed HB 2800 into law at a gathering of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that claims on its website that its “grassroots activists” are “on the front lines in the battle to defund America’s abortion giant—Planned Parenthood.”
The bill drew swift reaction from former U.S. surgeon general Richard Carmona, Arizona’s Democratic candidate for senator. At an opening of his campaign office in Phoenix on Saturday, Carmona told The Daily Beast that “anything we do to diminish access of health care to women” is bad policy.
A longtime preventive-health-care advocate, Carmona said in a statement released today: “This is an example of how politics and overheated rhetoric get in the way of common sense. Planned Parenthood provides a vast array of women’s health care services, often reaching under-served communities where health and economic disparities make access to quality care difficult.”
Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, struck a similar note, telling The Daily Beast that the intent of the law is to “score political points” and “demonize” Planned Parenthood to “appease certain segments of the voting public.”
The law will reduce Planned Parenthood’s clients by about 10 percent. About 4,000 women on Medicaid, out of a total of 40,000-45,000 patients overall, visit the organization’s 14 Arizona offices, Howard said.
But the law will likely also impact thousands more who may seek family-planning services from Planned Parenthood when the Affordable Health Care for America Act takes full effect in 2014.
As late as last month, Medicaid officials were still trying to figure out the economic ramifications of the bill, according to The Arizona Republic. Officials were not available for comment on Saturday.
In a statement released in the wake of the ceremonial bill signing, Brewer said: “This is a common-sense law that tightens existing state regulations and closes loopholes in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, whether directly or indirectly.”
Asked about the political strategy behind signing the bill alongside the Susan B. Anthony List, the governor’s spokesman, Matthew Benson, wrote in an email: “Susan B. Anthony List is one of the nation’s most prominent supporters of pro-life elected officials, and HB 2800 was a high priority of the group. It only made sense to sign the measure into law in front of this group and its members.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Susan B. Anthony List donates mostly to Republicans. It contributed $511,416 to Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign in 2012, and in 2010 donated about $23,000 to attempt to defeat congressional Democratic pro-choice candidates Gabrielle Giffords, Raul Grijalva, and Ann Kirkpatrick. (Kirkpatrick lost; the other two won their bids.)
Brewer held off signing the HB 2800 until Tea Party legislators passed one of her top priorities: a bill that would make it easier for her to fire and discipline state employees.
Planned Parenthood is considering a legal challenge as its next step. It’s not “acceptable,” Howard said, to have the state prohibit women from choosing where they want to get birth control.
By: Terry Greene Sterling, The Daily Beast, May 5, 2012