Checking Politifact on Women’s Alternatives to Planned Parenthood

Charles A. “Chuck” Donovan, Marguerite Duane, M.D., M.H.A., FAAFP   

Politifact-checks are almost never the last word, and the latest one from Politifact Georgia criticizing Congressman Barry Loudermilk for his assessment of women’s real healthcare alternatives to Planned Parenthood is a case in point. First and most important, the fact check misconstrues the heart of Congressman Loudermilk’s assertion that defunding Planned Parenthood will expand women’s access to health services. Although Politifact narrowly focuses on access to “services, from pap smears to birth control,” Congressman Loudermilk’s assertion refers to the fact that federally qualified health centers and community health centers offer a wide variety of vital health services that no Planned Parenthood touches.

 

These services include mammograms (Planned Parenthood offers none, FQHCs perform more than half a million a year), mental health services, prenatal care (a vanishingly small part of Planned Parenthood’s abortion-dominated business model), drug abuse counseling, dental care, child health services and many others that are of as keen interest to women in the target population.

 

But even at the heart of its enterprise, the Planned Parenthood business model is shrinking at the same time its government funding base has enjoyed a rich revival under the Obama Administration. In fact, from 2009 to 2015, Planned Parenthood’s total state and federal funding rose from $487 million to $554 million. During that same period, Planned Parenthood’s total cancer screenings, no doubt affected by changing clinical protocols, declined by 63 percent, or 1.1 million screenings. Perhaps more telling, as women gained Medicaid options under the Affordable Care Act and other programs, Planned Parenthood reversible contraceptive clients dropped by nearly 14 percent since 2009, and total patients by a whopping 200,000 from 2014 to 2015 alone. FQHC patient loads rose by more than 1.4 million during that same year. It seems women recognize their healthcare needs extend well beyond birth control and as such seek care from health centers that can provide comprehensive services.

 

The evidence is that Planned Parenthood was receiving and spending more, while doing less, long before Congress considered a budget adjustment. One service, however, remains high – Planned Parenthood carries out more than 322,000 abortions a year in the United States; combined with their international affiliates, they are the largest abortion provider in our country and likely worldwide.

 

The reconciliation bill passed by the House last week fully replaces the approximately $400 million in Medicaid funding Planned Parenthood loses, and it’s worth keeping in mind that these funds travel with the Medicaid-eligible woman. They do not disappear. Furthermore, women can use these funds not only for family planning services, but also for general preventive health screenings and management of chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, or depression, which afflict millions of women a year. The pro-life plan even adds $422 million in new spending for community health centers, funds which can be targeted to communities of demonstrable need.

 

Finally, the Politifact check speaks of an 8:1 FQHC to Planned Parenthood ratio. When funds are being reallocated and augmented, the situation is dynamic and trend lines must be understood. Programs and services at FQHCs can and will change, especially when they receive more funding. Moreover, women themselves are changing the landscape through accessing walk-in clinics, drug stores clinics with their array of inexpensive over-the-counter methods, onsite clinics, and Medicaid-accepting private doctors’ offices. In fact, the Guttmacher census reports that there has been an 85 percent increase in the number of women choosing to go to Medicaid-accepting private doctors for contraception from 2001 to 2015 compared to the six percent decline in the number of women going to publicly funded clinics for the same reason in the same period.

 

Finally, Planned Parenthood’s cost efficiency is questionable in at least one respect. Affiliates of the mammoth organization pay their top officials in the low- to mid-six figures. FQHCs, community-based and more typically attuned to their public service role, pay top salaries that are a fraction of what they could earn at the crosstown Planned Parenthood.

 

Admittedly, major changes in health care have some uncertain effects, but a redirection of Planned Parenthood funding to comprehensive, “whole woman” community clinics is a wise investment in better health for women. The facts speak well of Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s emailed comments.

 

Charles A. “Chuck” Donovan is the president of Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony List. Dr. Marguerite Duane is a CLI associate scholar and former FQHC physician and community health center Medical Director.

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