When conservatives made the big push to defund Planned Parenthood, they swore the issue was not about denying women health care services, but about protecting taxpayer dollars from waste. Two recent reports from the front lines of the Planned Parenthood battle show otherwise.
As Kate Sheppard reports, when officials in Shelby County, Tennessee took nearly $400,000 in state funding from the local Planned Parenthood, the Obama administration had to step in and fund the clinic directly. But instead of funding Planned Parenthood, originally local leaders directed that money to a religious organization that provides some women’s health care services. Needless to say, the taxpayer dollars were not well used.
Between July 2011 and June 2012, more than $500,000 of the $1.3 million grant the county received was not used at all. Hannah Sayle reports that Christ Community Health Services was averaging just 51 Title X visits per month in early 2012, compared to Planned Parenthood’s 841 visits in August 2011.
Amazing. When an organization isn’t interested in providing family planning services, women eventually have to turn elsewhere for that care. As Sheppard reports, the number of Title X visits in the state didn’t go down, but they did in Shelby County, meaning women had to travel outside of the county to get the care they need. The demand for health care didn’t go down, it just became less accessible.
The same is true in Texas where reporter Andrea Grimes chronicled her efforts trying to find a health care provider under the state’s Women’s Health Program for a well-woman visit. Even in a major metropolitan area like Austin, Texas trying to find a clinic to provide low-income, quality reproductive health care now that the state has excluded Planned Parenthood from its funding regime is practically impossible. In one instance, Texas officials listed a colonscopy clinic as one of the places a woman could go for a pap smear. When Grimes called to try and schedule an appointment and inquire about the services, clinic workers were understandably confused.
We can expect similar stories out of states like Ohio and Arizona as more and more hard-right legislatures set their sights on family planning services. And as these case studies develop, we are learning what we already knew: making health care services inaccessible won’t make the need for those services go away. Instead, it makes women go to greater expense and hardship to simply take care of their bodies. And when it’s too much, women will simply skip visits. In the case of well-women visits, that means a missed cancer screen. For some women, well-visits are the only time they visit a doctor absent an emergency, so that means fewer checks for other chronic conditions.
The inevitable conclusion to these developments is of course an increasingly segregated and discriminatory method of delivering health care to women. The Ann Romneys of the world will always have access to the health care they want and they need. But working women will not. This isn’t hypothetical, it’s happening.