Racism, classism, and other forms of oppression are embedded in the structure of the U.S. health-care system. The people in charge of that system have carried out discriminatory practices throughout its history. One such discriminatory policy: trying to “defund” Planned Parenthood.
Why is “defunding” discriminatory? There’s a lot of reasons, and they’re rooted in America’s history of slavery and racism.
The U.S. health care system puts up roadblocks to care for people who lack employer-sponsored insurance.
Institutionalized discrimination in our economy and society cordons off jobs with employer-sponsored insurance.
Due to the issues above, people who have low incomes, people who live in rural areas, and people who are Black, Latino, and/or LGBTQ+ (particularly transgender) are more likely to use Medicaid and other government health-care programs — programs that cover preventive sexual and reproductive health care at providers like Planned Parenthood.
Here’s the clincher: “Defunding” Planned Parenthood means blocking people who use public health care programs from accessing those programs at Planned Parenthood health centers, and about 60% of the 2.4 million patients who visit Planned Parenthood each year use public health programs.
That’s why “defunding” harms people with low incomes, Black people, Latinos, people who live in rural areas, and LGBTQ+ people. These communities make up the majority of Planned Parenthood’s patients.
Since Mike Pence first tried the "defunding" strategy as an Indiana congressman in 2007, many states have tried to prevent Medicaid patients from using their health insurance at Planned Parenthood health centers. But politicians in other states and in Congress are continuing to push “defund” legislation. Here’s the impact.
Impact of “Defund” on People With Low Incomes
People with low incomes and people who don’t have health care insurance can sometimes get free or low-cost health care at a community health center (CHC), which charges on a sliding scale. However, CHCs don’t specialize in sexual and reproductive health care like Planned Parenthood does.
“Defunding” keeps people who use public programs from using those programs to get sexual and reproductive health services such as birth control, STD tests, and cancer screenings, at Planned Parenthood health centers. One in three people who use birth control and who have low incomes get their birth control at a safety-net provider like Planned Parenthood. Many of these patients couldn’t get these services anywhere else.
We Know What Happens When Politicians Dismantle Sexual and Reproductive Health Services
People suffer — especially the Black and Latinx communities who already struggle to get access to the health care they need, because of racist law and health care practices.
Impact of “Defund” on People of Color
“Defund” attacks exacerbate systemic racism. Many people of color in the United States have less access to health coverage due to the legacies of racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, and other systemic barriers. Blocking people who rely on federal programs from seeking care through those programs at Planned Parenthood sharply reduces access to health care for many Black and Latinx communities. More than one-third (39%) of Planned Parenthood patients identify as people of color.
“Defunding” Planned Parenthood is devastating to Black communities.
Of the 2.4 million people who rely on Planned Parenthood for health care every year, more than 400,000 identify as Black (17% of Planned Parenthood’s patients).
Among nonelderly adults on Medicaid, more than 11 million are Black.
“Defund” legislation undermines Black people’s fight — and our fight — for reproductive freedom.
“Defunding” Planned Parenthood is devastating to Latino communities.
More than 570,000 Latinos come to Planned Parenthood health centers annually. Across races (Black, white, multiracial, and more), 24% of Planned Parenthood's total patient population identifies as Latino.
Among the nonelderly adults on Medicaid, more than 16 million are Latino.
Planned Parenthood sees patients regardless of immigration status and is one of the only places undocumented people can turn to for care.
Impact of “Defund” on People in Rural Areas
If blocked from access to care at Planned Parenthood, many patients in rural regions would have nowhere else to go. Over half of Planned Parenthood’s health centers are located in rural and underserved communities. Providers of gynecological care who accept Medicaid, such as Planned Parenthood, are in particularly short supply in rural areas.
Impact of “Defund” on the LGBTQ+ Community
Members of LGBTQ+ communities can face health challenges due to stigma and discrimination. People in the LGBTQ+ community who also are people of color, or have low incomes, or who live in rural areas — or whose identities intersect in other ways — have even more obstacles to reproductive health services. For example, LGBTQ+ people of color face particularly high rates of discrimination from medical providers, and systemic harassment.
Planned Parenthood understands that LGBTQ+ people have the right to safe access to contraceptives, STD testing, and a range of other health services free from stigma, discrimination, and coercion. Losing Planned Parenthood would close off this safe space for LGBTQ+ people seeking basic health care.
Attempting to Deprive Patients Insured Through Medicaid of Their Chosen Provider is an Inherently Racist and Discriminatory Attack
As we noted above, Planned Parenthood plays a crucial role in serving Black and Latino communities. In 2019, nearly 50% of Medicaid nonelderly adult patients in the United States identified as Hispanic or Black, compared to the 41% of white nonelderly adults in the country who use Medicaid.
Again, people of color and women disproportionately are enrolled in public health programs like Medicaid because of racist and discriminatory policies.
When politicians cut off access to care for Medicaid patients, people of color and women also lose their freedom to choose the provider that is best for them. What’s more, people in these communities already navigate inherently discriminatory systems with fewer freedoms than others — simply to exercise basic human rights, including accessing affordable health care, education and housing. Together, these combined attacks significantly decrease the health and economic well-being of these communities.