Aurora with Planned Parenthood Defunded

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman told reporters again this week how he's standing up for "vulnerable and underserved" people who need health care.

But as they contemplate Coffman's news release, reporters should recall that the Aurora Republican voted six or seven times, depending on how you count, to halt federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

Those votes are, at the end of the day, less about Planned Parenthood than about the low-income women the organization serves, because, if you defund a healthcare organization, you're pushing its patients out the door too.

To bring the point home, if it lost federal funds, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Coffman's own district of Aurora would have to turn away 2,200 patients who currently rely on the clinic for basic health care services like HIV and STD tests, birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings and more, according to a Planned Parenthood spokesman.

These are low-income women and men on Medicaid and women who are part of a federal cancer-screening program. So Planned Parenthood would have to raise private money to continue serving them.

Would safety-net organizations in Aurora be able to absorb all these patients, who'd be joining about 80,000 other low-income people statewide that Planned Parenthood could no long serve?

It's a complicated question, and it's one you'd think Coffman would have figured out in detail before his multiple votes against Planned Parenthood--and run his plan by his affected constituents to get their feedback. But he didn't, so I'll outline some of the issues for reporters.

There's no exhaustive analysis of what would happen to Planned Parenthood patients in Colorado if the organization lost federal funding. A credible study of the impacts in Texas show disastrous consequences, including a 27 percent increase in births among women who used injectable contraception.

Urban Aurora is obviously different than Texas, but, still, it's not fully certain that the network of Medicaid-friendly health centers in Aurora have the ability to readily absorb the 2,200 patients that could be cut out of Planned Parenthood, according to my interviews with a number of analysts. Even if it were, there are problems.

First, there's the issue of where alternative care, if it were available, is located. For low-income people, who often rely on public transportion, access to healthcare can be dependent on its location.

Wait times are another unkonwn. Under Coffman's anti-Planned Parenthood proposal, the influx on new patients at existing clinics could lengthen lines.

And there's the preferences of the patients, particularly women who seek birth control and related care, who are served.

Does it matter to Coffman that patients may want to stay with Planned Parenthood, because they feel comfortable there?

I'm biased, I admit, but who could argue with Planned Parenthood folks who say that many women seek out Planned Parenthood, instead of other Medicaid-friendly clinics, because they want privacy. As women, they want a place where their medical and social needs are the top priority.

In any case, what's Coffman's plan for these women in his district? What does he have to offer them? What does he have to say to them?

Will he run his defunding plan, if he has any, by the 2,200 women who now attend the Aurora Planned Parenthood clinic to see how they feel about it?