State eliminates Planned Parenthood funding

by Eric Ginsburg

Guilford and Forsyth county residents will start feeling the impact of the state legislature’s decision to strip Panned Parenthood from accessing state administered funds beginning July 1. The healthcare provider does not plan to cut any programs, but costs will increase, including some dramatic jumps.

The state budget, which the legislature passed after overriding Gov. Purdue’s veto, included a provision to strip Planned Parenthood of any state funds or federal money administered through the state. The decision removes $434,000 from Planned Parenthood in North Carolina.

“It represents another assault on people who are in a more disadvantaged position when it comes to being able to access healthcare,” said Valerie Ann Johnson, a Bennett College women’s studies professor. “It can be really difficult to find quality reproductive care. People see [the decision] as being about abortion but it isn’t.”

Melissa Reed, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of public policy for North Carolina, was quick to note that the decision didn’t save the state money. Instead, she says, it was a political move to target the healthcare provider because of its abortion services.

“One hundred percent of these funds go to preventative reproductive healthcare and none of it goes to abortion services,” Reed said, adding that women seeking abortions usually pay out of pocket. “Seventy percent of our patients are uninsured right now so the costs to them will certainly increase. It’s going to be a real hardship for poor women.”

Planned Parenthood has offices in Greensboro and Winston-Salem that help alleviate long waits at county health departments. Reed said patients already wait about 14 weeks to be seen in Forsyth County, and that amount of time will likely grow. Planned Parenthood can see patients within a week.

The Winston-Salem Planned Parenthood office saw more than 3,700 patients last year, many of whom will not be able to afford higher costs, Reed said. In the most dramatic example, Planned Parenthood currently offers free IUDs, the most effective form of birth control, to low-income women, but the cost will skyrocket to $700.

Reed said people waiting so long for an appointment at the health department creates a public health risk, such as people waiting months to be screened for sexually transmitted infections.

The Greensboro Planned Parenthood office saw more than 4,500 patients last year. Unlike Forsyth, the Guilford County health department is on a first-come, first-served basis with patients waiting in line as long as it takes. The waits, coupled with increased costs at Planned Parenthood, may mean some people go without important medical treatment altogether, Reed said.

“Women may go without breast and cervical cancer screenings,” Reed said. “Early detection is very important.”

Lauren Guy-Mcalpin of the Spectrum Doula Collective said that if the legislature wanted to save money they shouldn’t have passed the Women’s Right to Know Act the same day as the provision blocking Planned Parenthood’s funding.

The act would make women seeking an abortion wait 24 hours before completing the procedure, view an ultrasound and be given printed material about possible risks. The News & Observer reports that the bill, if implemented, would cost the state an estimated $35 million over the next five years.

Tari Hanneman, director of the Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem, said Forsyth County is already struggling with high teen pregnancy rates. While 75 percent of North Carolina counties saw a decline in teen pregnancy rates recently, the most recent numbers she has for Forsyth County show an increase.

“A lot of teens go to Planned Parenthood for family planning services,” Hanneman said. “It’s going to have a big impact on lowincome women who may rely on Planned Parenthood for their family planning services. They may not have other options.”

Planned Parenthood provides an array of services, including work to prevent teen pregnancy, with money currently administered by the state. North Carolina has the 9 th highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

A report from the Guttmacher Institute indicates that publicly funded family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood help prevent 45,300 unintended pregnancies in North Carolina every year.

Some local residents, like Johnson, have seen the importance of Planned Parenthood on a more personal and individual level.

“When I was in high school, I had a friend in 10th grade who needed an exam,” Johnson said. “I took her to Planned Parenthood… just to be seen by someone who was medically competent so she would know what was going on with her body. That’s why I’m such a strong advocate.”

Schyler Gately, who doesn’t have health insurance, said her appointments never take long and that the staff is understanding.

“I feel like we’re going backwards,” Gately said. “[Politicians] don’t have to worry about it. They all have money and health insurance.”

Sally S. Cone is a member of Friends of Planned Parenthood in Greensboro and has been an active supporter since the mid 1980s.

“Planned Parenthood does a lot that the average citizen does not realize,” Cone said. “It may be the sole health care provider for many, many men and women. Life without Planned Parenthood, if it would ever come to that, would be pretty bleak for a great number of people.”

Cone said she doesn’t think that will happen and said the legislation may be illegal.

In a press release, Planned Parenthood North Carolina said it is considering all options, including litigation.

In the statement, Planned Parenthood said that more than 20,000 people in North Carolina spoke up for the organization during this legislative session. The release also cited a survey by Public Policy Polling, reporting that 57 percent of North Carolina voters opposed provisions blocking Planned Parenthood’s funding.