Let Iowa Be A Warning About What Defunding Planned Parenthood Really Means

Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images.
Four Iowa Planned Parenthood clinics will close on Friday after the state withheld family planning funds from clinics that offer abortions. Thousands of Iowans will be left without a healthcare provider, and the situation in the Midwest should serve as a warning of what will happen nationwide if either of the current healthcare bills in the House and Senate become law.
First, let's take a look at what happened in Iowa. Former Gov. Terry Branstad (now the U.S. ambassador to China) signed a new health and human services budget in May that replaced Iowa's federal Medicaid family planning waiver with its own program that allows it to exclude healthcare providers that offer abortion services.
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Soon after, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced it would have to shutter four of its 12 clinics in the state: Quad Cities, Burlington, Keokuk, and Sioux City. About 15,000 Iowans will lose their healthcare provider, according to Planned Parenthood.
Now, Republicans in both the House and Senate have proposed healthcare legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood the same way Iowa did — by cutting it off from federal Medicaid reimbursements for a year. And just like in Iowa, patients who rely on Medicaid would be forced to find a new healthcare provider (if there's even another one nearby), and more clinics would likely close.
"What’s happening now in Iowa is a preview of the devastation we’ll see nationwide if Congress 'defunds' Planned Parenthood as part of Trumpcare," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement provided to Refinery29. "If that happens, women across the country will be blocked from getting birth control and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood. As Senators go home for recess, they will hear loud and clear — the people of America will not stand to see Planned Parenthood’s patients lose their access to health care."
It's already illegal for federal money to go toward abortion procedures, so withholding Medicaid reimbursements cuts off access to other services, including birth control and cancer screenings. Roughly 2.4 million men and women nationwide go to Planned Parenthood clinics every year, and more than half rely on Medicaid. Because so many of its patients rely on government assistance for healthcare, 43% of the organization's revenue in the 2014-2015 fiscal year came from health services grants and reimbursements, amounting to about $559 million a year Planned Parenthood would lose.
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Before Iowa, Texas was already an example of what happens when politicians defund women's health. In 2011, the Lone Star state redirected family planning funds from clinics that offered abortions, resulting in about 30,000 fewer women receiving healthcare a year and the maternal mortality rate doubling in the state.
Woman also had to drive much further to get abortions. According to a Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) report, Texas women whose closest clinic stayed open drove an average of 22 miles, while women whose closest clinic closed drove an average of 85 miles for health services.
If Congress passes healthcare reform with a provision to defund Planned Parenthood, the same could happen in every state. Attacks on Planned Parenthood are unequivocally attacks on women's health.
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