Planned Parenthood’s Uncertain Future
What proposed funding cuts could mean for BU students
Should BU students be worried that federal funding of Planned Parenthood and other family planning agencies is dangling by a thread?
David McBride, director of Student Health Services, thinks so. “Student Health Services and Planned Parenthood complement one another,” he says, “providing many of the same services. SHS, however, does not do pregnancy termination. I think that the attack on this funding is an attack on women’s reproductive rights. BU women and men should be very concerned about this.”
By “this,” McBride means last week’s 240 to 185 vote in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to eliminate all federal funding for the family planning and reproductive health group Planned Parenthood. In another measure the following day, the House voted to eliminate Title X, the federally funded national family planning program that has been in place since 1970.
The Planned Parenthood bill is considered unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate, which could vote on it as early as today. President Obama has vowed to veto the bill if it comes to his desk.
In any case, the two House measures have ignited a firestorm between conservatives—who contend Planned Parenthood should not receive federal funding because its clinics perform abortions—and supporters, who point out that Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using federal funds for abortions. Rather than pay for abortions, they say, the federal dollars received by the organization fund services such as birth control, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings. Supporters argue that without the federal funds, health care, particularly for low-income women, will not only suffer, but the lack of planning will lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies, and consequently, in abortions.
Planned Parenthood says that the proposal would stop 48 percent of the agency’s three million patients it sees each year from receiving health care. The organization’s clinics offer a sliding scale fee, based on income, and spokesmen say that abortions make up only 3 percent of the services it provides.
Danielle Roncari, a family planning fellow at Boston Medical Center and a School of Public Health obstetrics and gynecology instructor, says the proponents of the bill are using women’s health care as a pawn in the budget game.
“It’s unfortunate and a little scary that this measure got passed in the House,” says Roncari. “It’s one of many bills, including some at the state and national health care level, aimed at women’s health care in general. The way Planned Parenthood works now, the federal money they receive does not go towards abortions. Rather, the proposed cuts would affect their services that have to do with well-woman care in general.”
Not everyone at BU is opposed to the proposed cuts. Among the supporters is Elise Kulik (CAS’11), president of the BU pro-life group Right to Life. “Although Planned Parenthood offers some excellent services, such as STD testing and treatment, and educates people, they are the nation’s largest abortion provider,” Kulik says. “We do not think federal dollars should be spent on such a huge violation of human rights.”
For BU students, the elimination of Planned Parenthood clinics would affect the convenience and cost of some health care services. There are several Planned Parenthood clinics in the greater Boston area, including one just off campus, at 1055 Commonwealth Ave. The clinics accept most private and public insurance plans, and besides their income-based sliding fee scale, in many cases they provide discounted or free services. A one-month supply of birth control at Planned Parenthood, for example, is $30, but can cost more than $50 elsewhere if an insurance program doesn’t cover it.
Sasha Goodfriend (CAS’14), the outreach coordinator for BU’s VOX: Voices for Choices, a student-run pro-choice organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood, says many BU students depend on the family planning and reproductive health group. “Even if most students aren’t sexually active or pregnant now,” she says, “if they ever decide they want to be in the future, this will directly affect them.”
Group president Gabrielle Newton (CAS’14) articulates the larger social issues. “We believe that women’s reproductive health services should be available to all women regardless of their socioeconomic status, and that all women should have the freedom to choose to make their own reproductive decisions and not be limited by how much money they have,” she says. “The bottom line is, if this bill is passed, only women who can afford not to be on Medicaid will have the opportunity to choose what happens to their bodies. This means that many American men and women will not have access to the sexual health services that they need.”
Amy Laskowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments