Federal funding cuts for many services offered through Planned Parenthood

Reproductive Health (Photo illustration/Oliver Yu)

MaryAnne Shults

An amendment to spending bill H.R. 1 to disallow federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and its affiliates, was adopted in the U.S. House of Representatives last month with a 240-185 vote, the majority of yeas coming from Republicans. The amendment now faces a Senate vote.

Presented by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the amendment declared the organization would loose approximately $75 million for all its operations for Title X of the Social Security Act, which has been around for the past 40 years. The program offers family planning services to low-income women.

Pence’s amendment went the distance by depriving funding that supports health care services for low-income patients, the majority of which are women, including annual wellness exams, contraceptive services, screening for breast and ovarian cancer as well as HIV/AIDS, STD screening and treatments, pregnancy testing and education.

Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California said in a statement that the House vote “strips millions of American women of access to basic preventative health care.”

Although the cuts may greatly diminish the provision of these services from Planned Parenthood, students using these services have an alternative resource on both the Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College at campus health centers.

Both centers provide services for free, or for a nominal fee, to any student currently enrolled who has paid their health fee and is attending classes. Services are provided by physicians and registered nurses, as well as other certified, licensed health care providers.

Saddleback’s Student Health Center provides screening for cervical cancer, testicular cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. It also provides family planning counseling, birth control, and pregnancy testing. In collaboration with Associated Student Government, the center provides free educational material concerning sexually transmitted disease prevention and condoms to any interested student.

This semester alone, the center has already seen approximately 10,000 student patients overall.

However, many students do not know that the center’s services are included in the required $17 health fee paid each semester—some are not aware the center exists.

“About half of those seen were here for some type of sexual education or testing,” said Monica Nelson, the director of the Student Health Center. “About 30 percent come in to be tested for clyamidia. Some come in to ask about its symptoms.”

Privacy is a major concern of some students, namely those who fear their parents discovery of something personal.

“Students can stop by anytime and talk to a nurse regarding questions or issues,” Nelson said. “If a parent calls, we don’t even acknowledge the call. Our services are strictly confidential.

Education in respect to reproductive health is a key function of the Student Health Center at Saddleback. According to Nelson, the center has an active outreach program where a nurse goes into the classroom to hand out brochures, free condoms and stress balls, while explaining about the center including its hours and wide range of services.

“Since February, we’ve made over 100 visits,” Nelson said.

For those who may financially struggle to even pay the minimal fees for services or tests, the center advised they apply for qualification as part of the Family PACT program.

Family PACT is California’s innovative approach to provide comprehensive family planning services to eligible low-income men and women. This clinical program increases access to services by expanding the provider network to include medical providers, pharmacies and laboratories, according to its website at familypact.org.

“Qualification can be done on the phone or online,” Nelson said. “It offers a more personal alternative than a large clinic because the patient can see a private doctor.”

Nelson noted that Family PACT is another organization that may be negatively impacted by H.R. 1’s proposed cuts to health care.

At the Health and Wellness Center at IVC, walk-ins are welcome, but the preferential method is to make an appointment. To obtain birth control, an appointment with a health center nurse is required to help determine which of many birth control options are the best choice based on individual need. After a gynecological exam by a physician, the appropriate method will be taught and/or prescribed. There is not a gynecologist on staff, but all doctors are board-certified general practitioners and can suggest an alternative.

Supporters of the bill’s amendment seem more concerned that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider of abortions, ignoring the majority of services involve family planning, health screening, or education. In California, 97 percent of the services they provide at their health centers are preventative care, according to Kneer. The Hyde Amendment prohibits use of federal funds for abortions.

But when an undercover video shot by Live Nation alleging Planned Parenthood employees involved in sex trafficking was released, Pence had the fuel he needed to add to the fire, even though Planned Parenthood denied the allegations.

“I urged my colleagues to take a stand for taxpayers, take a stand against a pattern of corruption, and take a stand for young women in crisis pregnancies who deserve access to unbiased and compassionate health services.,” Pence wrote in a post on his Facebook page on Feb. 18.

In defense, Stuart Schear, vice president for communications at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that the organization’s “top priority is the health and safety of our patients and the health and well-being of women and teens across the country.” He also said the video tapes cannot be trusted.

The bill may not hold in the U.S. Senate where the majority are Democrats.

Regardless of the outcome, students who may have visited Planned Parenthood for parallel services with respect to preventative or other care related to reproductive health can utilize the programs and services at their campus’ health center.

“Even with Obama’s recent change where students up to age 26 are covered by their parents’ health insurance, some students haven’t seen a doctor or a dentist in 10 years,” Nelson said. “Some of their parents don’t have any insurance at all.”

Saddleback’s Student Health Center is located in the Student Services Center, Room 177 and is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. IVC’s Health and Wellness Center is located in Student Center, Room 150 and is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Fridays from 9 a.m. tol 1 p.m.

Visit their websites, www.saddleback.edu/shc and www.ivc.edu/wellness, respectively, for further information.

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