Funds for Planned Parenthood threatened

BY DAVID BUCCILLI
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 15, 2011

Correction Appended: This story inaccurately reported that cuts to Planned Parenthood would affect the University Health Service. UHS is funded by a student health fee in tuition and pharmacy and clinical service fees. The story's headline and lede have been changed to reflect this.

Students who seek health services from Planned Parenthood may have more limited options if a bill in Congress proposing to cut funding to health clinics becomes law.

The U.S. Senate is currently debating a bill, which passed the U.S. House or Representatives last month, that would reduce funding to the federal Title X Family Planning program. Title X provides preventative health services to about 5 million people at more than 4,500 clinics, including Planned Parenthood, in primarily low-income communities. Other clinics that would likely be impacted by the drop in funding are college health centers at like UHS.

Desiree Cooper, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan wrote in an e-mail interview that the bill would cut funds from all Planned Parenthood preventive health care programs “including cancer screenings, birth control, HIV testing, and testing and treatment for other sexually transmitted infections.”

“Nationally, we are facing the most aggressive legislative attack on women’s health care seen in years,” Cooper wrote.

Planned Parenthood assists many patients on Medicaid and other subsidized health care programs, according to Cooper.

“If we don’t serve our patients that have very few resources or no insurance, there’s no one else that can do that … another agency (is not) prepared to handle that situation on the breadth that we can do it,” Cooper said in an interview yesterday.

She added that many students also receive free health benefits from Planned Parenthood.

“A lot of students, especially before the health care reform, are aged out of their parents health insurance plans, or frankly, a lot of parents don’t have jobs anymore,” Cooper said. “Students are going without health care, and Planned Parenthood takes students regardless if they can pay.”

Sarah Scranton, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) voted against the proposed cut and that she hopes Senators Carl Levin (D–Mich.) and Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) would continue their advocacy for the organization by voting against any bill to reduce funding that comes up in the Senate.

“Both of (the senators) are long time supporters of Planned Parenthood,” Scranton said. “We would hope that they would continue that support and vote against anything that would cut funds to Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood has received local and national support against the proposal, according to Cooper. She wrote in the e-mail that more than 769,000 people have signed an open letter to Congress, which Planned Parenthood posted on its website.

“People are seeing this as a direct attack against Planned Parenthood, which it is, but also a broader attack against reproductive health care, (and) critical health care services for people who need it and can’t afford it,” Cooper said.

LSA junior Amanda Caldwell, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said she thinks if the bill passes, students would be affected much more than they think, as funding to contraceptives and other services would likely be eliminated.

“UHS will lose money if this bill becomes law,” Caldwell said, noting that university health centers are among many community-based health clinics that receive funding from Title X.

“It’s playing politics with women’s lives,” Caldwell added. “It’s funding programs for women who have no other options for health care who can’t go anywhere else.”

Proponents of the reduction to Title X say the government shouldn’t be funding or supporting abortion — one of the preventive health practices offered by Planned Parenthood. However, while Title X finances much of Planned Parenthood, it also prohibits using federal funding for abortions.

“You see Republicans talking on the news on how it’s going to end abortions, but that’s not what it’s about,” Caldwell said.

LSA junior Charles Bogren, chair of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, did not respond to an e-mail inquiry from The Michigan Daily last night.

The Senate has until Friday to pass the bill or pass a resolution to extend the deadline until April 8.