It seems like every other day, we see headlines about another state cutting funding from Planned Parenthood, a family planning service provider that offers women general health care (including flu vaccines and run-of-the-mill physical exams), cancer screenings, STD testing, contraception, and other critical services in addition to providing abortions. In fact, at least 14 states have taken actions to do just that. But a new rule proposed by the Obama administration would ensure the federal funding for these critical services would reach its intended destinations.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule that would prevent states from denying family planning service providers federal funds based on whether that provider happens to offer abortions. Instead, funds should be awarded based on a provider's ability to effectively perform services.
These funds are part of Title X, a federal program dedicated to funding family planning services. The program helps subsidize the costs of contraceptives and screenings for cancer, STDs, and HIV for approximately 5 million patients, 91 percent of whom are considered low income. No Title X funds can be used to pay for abortions. But still, 92 percent of people served by Title X are women, which means that when Title X funds are withheld from centers like Planned Parenthood, women — and particularly, low-income women — are disproportionately affected.
There are apparent correlations between slashing the budget for family planning services and deleterious effects on women: In Texas, for instance, a sharp rise in pregnancy-related deaths falls in line with a 2011 decrease in funding. At 35.8 deaths per 100,000 births in 2014, the rate reaches almost double what it was before the cut. And not only is Planned Parenthood providing vital services to women across the country, but they're also playing a key role in preventing the spread of the Zika virus — which can be sexually transmitted — in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the best way to prevent Zika-related birth defects is to avoid or delay pregnancy, and Planned Parenthood is leading the charge in affected communities to educate the population about transmission of the disease and family planning strategies.
"This will make a real difference in so many people's lives," Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement. "The Obama Administration is protecting access to health care for millions of people. Women in nearly half the states in this country have faced political attacks on cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic care. This rule makes it clear that politicians cannot ignore the law as they pursue their agenda to stop women from getting the care they need."
Predictably, the proposed rule does have its opponents: Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) has called the rule to protect Planned Parenthood "a stunt" and "shady." Black also questioned Planned Parenthood's legitimacy in relation to fraudulent videos released by antiabortion activists that seemed to show the trafficking of fetal tissue.
"We must use the full force of Congress and the grassroots strength of the national pro-life movement to defeat this absurd rule and prevent the Obama Administration from acting unilaterally to carry out political favors and prop up a scandal-ridden abortion provider," she said in a statement.
The rule, published publicly Sept. 7, is undergoing a 30-day public comment period (add your voice here), after which the Department of Health and Human Services will decide whether or not to issue a final version.
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• Court Clears Planned Parenthood, Indicts Video Creators Instead
• Planned Parenthood Sues Center for Medical Progress Over Fraudulent Videos, Smear Campaign
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