In their zeal to destroy Planned Parenthood and eliminate women's access to abortions, Congressional Republicans seek to defund Planned Parenthood.
This strategy will have no impact on federal financing of abortions because Congress has banned such financing since 1976.
If Congress succeeds in destroying Planned Parenthood, researchers have concluded it would likely cause a massive spike in unplanned births and abortions, while also delaying diagnosis of and treatment for cancer, diabetes and hypertension for millions of women and men.
This morally bankrupt strategy imperils a basic lifeline for health care services in many poor communities, because Planned Parenthood has an outstanding track record in providing life-saving health care screenings.
It also imperils many women's access to contraception, even though the overwhelming majority of Americans believe contraception should be legal and readily available.
Moreover, this strategy is blatantly unconstitutional. Congress cannot constitutionally single out one health care provider as ineligible for any federal reimbursement for its services merely because Congress disapproves of the provider also spending non-federal dollars on abortions.
What is Planned Parenthood and how does it get reimbursed for its services?
Planned Parenthood turned 100 in 2016. It is not a federally-funded entity. It is a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation that receives government reimbursements for some health care services. It operates approximately 650 health centers.
Annually, it reaches 2.5 million women and men. Only 3 percent of its health care services are for abortions; the federal government provides no reimbursement for those services.
In 2015, Planned Parenthood received nearly $1.3 billion. Of that money, about 40 percent was from government sources. The other money came from private sources, including individual contributions.
The overwhelming majority of the money Planned Parenthood receives from the federal government is Medicaid reimbursement for services such as pap smears, mammograms, contraceptives and screenings for diabetes and hypertension.
Unlike most private health care providers, Planned Parenthood accepts Medicaid patients and treats them on a timely basis despite a below-cost reimbursement rate.
Planned Parenthood relies on private donations to subsidize the cost of these services and reach millions of poor women and men each year. No other charitable organization now provides or has the capacity to develop similar, high quality services for poor people.
Planned Parenthood also receives some Title X grants to serve as a safety-net family-planning provider for millions of people. In 21 percent of the counties in which Planned Parenthood serves as the safety-net clinic, no other low-cost private or governmental family-planning provider exists in the area.
Put simply, an embargo on any federal money going to Planned Parenthood would cause a dramatic decline in the availability of basic health care for poor women and men, while placing further stress on already overburdened government services.
In poor communities, Planned Parenthood is often the only available health care provider of contraception as well as screenings for diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
We should be thanking Planned Parenthood for its century of providing high quality, inexpensive health care services rather than seeking to destroy it.
Ironically, a Republican Congress that lauds public-private partnerships as the way to deliver high quality services seeks to destroy Planned Parenthood.
By providing below-market priced services that other private health care facilities fail to offer, Planned Parenthood subsidizes the government — rather than the other way around.
Planned Parenthood's abortion services would likely survive a hostile Congress that seeks to stop any federal dollars flowing to them, because these services have long survived without government funding.
The “defund Planned Parenthood” strategy, however, would have catastrophic consequences on the availability of contraceptives and health care screenings at the many Planned Parenthood clinics that do not even provide abortions and rely on Medicaid or Title X dollars to serve low-income women and men.
Ruth Colker is a distinguished professor and Heck-Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law at the Ohio State University. She is the author of 14 books on various aspects of constitutional law and disability rights. Readers may write her at Moritz College of Law, 55 West 12th St., Columbus, Ohio, 43210. This essay is available to Tribune News Service subscribers. Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of Tribune or its editors
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