Editor's note: This page was posted in 2015 and last updated in 2017.
As experts have demonstrated over and over again, community health centers (CHCs) don’t have the capacity to absorb the 2.4 million Planned Parenthood patients.
Repeating the same lie over and over again doesn’t make it true. So when House Speaker Paul Ryan and other anti-abortion politicians in Washington say that the country’s overburdened, publicly funded CHCs will take up the slack in the event these politicians “defund” Planned Parenthood, don’t believe them for a minute. Better yet, call Speaker Ryan and your U.S. senators to let them know the facts.
(“Defunding,” by the way, doesn’t stop federal taxpayer money from paying for abortions -- because federal law already prohibits federal dollars from going to abortion, except in dire circumstances. Instead, “defunding” simply blocks patients who rely on public health care funds from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers.)
Here’s what you need to know when you make your call to Congress: Without Planned Parenthood, there simply aren’t enough providers who offer accessible, comprehensive reproductive health care. Period.
Not Enough Providers Without Planned Parenthood
As experts have demonstrated over and over again, CHCs don’t have the capacity to absorb the 2.4 million Planned Parenthood patients. The majority of those patients rely on publicly supported programs like Medicaid and the Title X family planning program to get life-saving and life-changing health care. In fact:
In more than 20% of the counties where Planned Parenthood health centers operate, there are no other health care providers serving patients who rely on publicly funded programs, and
In 68% of counties with a Planned Parenthood health center, Planned Parenthood serves at least half of all low-income patients. This especially true in rural America and other underserved areas.
Add to all that the fact that most states already face shortages of providers who offer reproductive health care through the publicly funded Medicaid program, and you’ve got the recipe for a health care disaster.
It’s no wonder why the executive director of the American Public Health Association called the idea that CHCs could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients “ludicrous” — and you should, too.
[CHCs are] already strapped trying to care for the patients they have, and to absorb all these additional patients who now go to Planned Parenthood just isn’t feasible… to think this would be a seamless transition from one provider to another with plenty of capacity is simply to not understand the health care system.— Gretchen Borchelt, National Women’s Law Center McClatchyDC, 1/19/17
Fewer Birth Control Options Without Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood health centers pride themselves on offering the most comprehensive birth control options. In fact, nearly all of Planned Parenthood’s health centers offer the full range of federally approved contraceptives methods. Unfortunately, that level of care isn’t available at many CHCs. Only about two thirds of health centers run by local health departments and 52% for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) offer the same options.
What’s more, Planned Parenthood patients get care with fewer delays and obstacles:
Nearly all of Planned Parenthood’s health centers offer birth control implants and IUDs on the same day as a patient’s first visit, compared to fewer than 30% for CHCs.
83% of Planned Parenthood providers offer birth control pills and refills on-site without an extra trip to the drug store, compared to only 34% of FQHCs.
Indeed, because of the level of care Planned Parenthood provides communities, CHCs regularly refer to them for family planning services.
Not Enough Accessibility Without Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood’s health centers also have a patient-focused approach in their care — even to the point of offering early morning, evening, or weekend hours to better meet patients’ needs. For example, 78% of Planned Parenthood health centers offer evening or weekend hours, compared to 57% of FQHCs and only 18% of centers run by local health departments.
It should go without saying that convenient and flexible hours are especially important for people who must travel long distances for care, as well as for parents and people whose jobs don’t have flexible hours. The connection: People with low-incomes are more likely to have hourly jobs that are not flexible, and 75% of Planned Parenthood patients have incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.
Forcing CHCs to handle more patients would lengthen waiting times, delay care, and keep some people from getting any care at all — and *that* could lead to more unwanted pregnancies and STDs, according to
– McClatchyDC, 1/19/17
“Defunding” in Action
We’ve already seen what happens when certain states prohibit patients using publicly funded programs from getting services at Planned Parenthood health centers — and it isn’t good. In Texas, for example:
Fewer Texas women got birth control and more got pregnant after the state blocked patients who relied on public programs from care at Planned Parenthood health centers.
About half as many patients received family planning care after the state cut Planned Parenthood health centers out of its Medicaid family planning-only program for low-income women.
Bottom Line: Americans Need — and Want — Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood’s health centers provide birth control for 2 million people who rely on public programs for health care. They also provide more than 4.2 million STD tests and treatments; more than 320,000 breast exams; and nearly 295,000 Pap tests annually. Planned Parenthood is a vital part of the entire health care system and partners with other providers to ensure that women, men, and families receive the care they need. CHCs alone simply don’t have the capacity or the clinicians to fill the gap if patients can no longer go to Planned Parenthood for care.
Studies show that Planned Parenthood health centers are critical to the health care safety net, delivering irreplaceable high-quality contraceptive care to a majority of women who rely on public funds for health care. You know what studies also show? That Planned Parenthood is popular, and Americans don’t want to see its health centers shut down.
Those are the facts. And they remain true, no matter how many lies anti-abortion politicians in Washington continue to tell.