Opinion

Opinion

PAIGE JOHNSON: Planned Parenthood in N.C. won't relent in efforts to provide women quality health care

Posted April 21

Special to the Capitol Broadcasting Company Opinion Section: Paige Johnson is vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

Politicians in DC have spent the past three months playing political games with women’s health and rights. But in North Carolina, we’re no stranger to politicians putting affordable and reliable health care on the political frontline.  In 2011, North Carolina politicians launched a politically-motivated attack on Planned Parenthood, banning our participation in the federal Title X program through which Planned Parenthood provides basic preventive health care services such as annual exams, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections on a sliding scale that starts at zero.

We took the state to court and we prevailed. But in 2012, anti-women’s health legislators were back with a new tactic to ban Planned Parenthood from providing the same life-giving and life-saving care to low-income North Carolinians.  This time we started working directly with the federal government to ensure that the 91,446 North Carolinians who rely on Title X for their preventive health care each year would continue to have access to Planned Parenthood as an essential community provider of these services.

In truth, “defunding” is a misnomer. The funding Planned Parenthood receives is a reimbursement for services provided to patients who would not otherwise be able to afford their care.  So, when politicians threaten defunding, they’re actually talking about taking away access to basic health care from the 25,500 patients in North Carolina who rely on Planned Parenthood each year.

In the latest attack on women’s health last week, the President signed a bill that removes federal protections put in place by President Obama’s administration that protected the care Planned Parenthood provides from political attacks in states hostile to women’s health. The policy overturned prohibited states from banning Planned Parenthood’s participation in the Title X program for reasons unrelated to our ability to provide high-quality care.  The most common example of this is state legislators banning providers from the Title X who also provide the full range of reproductive health care to women, including access to safe and legal abortion.

To be clear, the Hyde Amendment has been law of the land for more than 40 years and prohibits federal funds from being used to provide abortion services. The intent of last week’s action is clearly aimed at emboldening anti-women’s health legislators in their efforts to restrict access to affordable, preventive health care services.

Yet we’ve seen exactly what happens when politicians disregard Planned Parenthood’s strong track record of providing expert, high-quality care in favor of moving a political agenda forward. Texas is the most recent cautionary tale, where politicians -- with extremist views out of step with their constituents -- slashed their state family planning budget in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood, and ultimately left tens of thousands of low-income women without access to health care.

A study from the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated an immediate real-world impact of this short-sighted decision, reporting that blocking patients from receiving care at Planned Parenthood in Texas led to a 35 percent decline in use of the most effective methods of birth control among those women who were no longer able to afford them, and a dramatic 27 percent increase in births among women who had previously accessed reliable, affordable contraception through Title X providers such as Planned Parenthood.

The reality is that people who would be most affected by federal “defunding” of Planned Parenthood includes those who already face barriers to accessing health care — especially people of color, people with low to moderate incomes, as well as those living in rural areas.

We’re living in the most politically hostile climate for women’s health in a generation, but there’s no denying that since the historic Women’s March and Moral March on Raleigh, Planned Parenthood in North Carolina is as prepared as ever for the fight of our lives to defend the vital care our patients depend on every day, no matter what.

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