During the Obama administration, states were prohibited from withholding federal Title X funds from health centers like Planned Parenthood that provided abortion services.
However, on Feb. 16, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted 230 to 188 against funding for Planned Parenthood. As House Speaker Paul Ryan stated during a CNN town hall, ”We don’t want to commit taxpayer funding for abortion, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider.”
The Title X program funds a variety of preventative health care services for 4.1 million low income patients. Planned Parenthood serves about a third of these patients with the help of $70 million a year in Title X grants. These funds, however, are prohibited from being used for abortion services and instead go toward other preventative health services such as cervical screenings.
Through its 650 affiliate health centers around the country, Planned Parenthood cares for about 2.5 million women and men per year, providing a host of reproductive health services such as physical exams, birth control, breast exams, STD testing, testicular cancer screenings and prenatal care. In 2014, publicly-funded family planning helped prevent two million unintended pregnancies, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Opponents of the proposed legislation say that defunding Planned Parenthood will immediately impact minorities, low income individuals and those in rural areas. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will cost taxpayers a minimum of $130 million to defund Planned Parenthood, since they will have to form a replacement health center.
“This bill is dumb, it’s foolish and it’s mean-spirited,” said Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fla.). “The bill is based upon lies and exaggerations. If you want to have a truthful debate, then let’s talk about the 400,000 Pap smears, the 500,000 breast exams, the 4.5 million STD and HIV tests that Planned Parenthood does each year.”
WCC student Deborah Higa also disagrees with the legislation.
”I think defunding would be a big mistake because it’s very useful to inform people on safe sex,” Higa said.
Last October, Planned Parenthood marked its centennial anniversary. Its first health center in Hawai‘i opened in 1966, providing education services on birth control, family planning, fertility counseling, research and training. In 1970, Hawai‘i became the first state in the nation to legalize abortion, three years before the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
Following the House of Representatives vote on Title X funds, the bill will now go to the Senate. If passed by the Senate, it will then be delivered to President Donald Trump for signature.
In a CNN interview in 2015, Trump made his stance on Planned Parenthood clear. “Well, the biggest problem I have with Planned Parenthood is the abortion situation,” he said. “It’s like an abortion factory frankly. You can’t have it … and that should not be funded by the government. I feel strongly about that. And that’s my biggest issue with Planned Parenthood because when you look at the work they do, it’s become so heavily centered on abortion … certainly the abortion aspect of it should not be funded by government.”
Planned Parenthood is against the proposed legislation.
“These bills are a callous attempt to insert politics into women’s health, and we’re grateful that the Senate and the president will stop them from becoming law,” said Eric Ferrero, a spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Currently, Planned Parenthood has two centers in Hawai‘i: the Honolulu Health Center and the Maui Health Center.
by Itzel Contreras Mendez, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter