Defunding Planned Parenthood Would Leave Poor And Rural Women Without Care: CBO

The GOP's health care bill would likely lead to a spike in unplanned births.

WASHINGTON ― By defunding Planned Parenthood, the Republican plan to replace Obamacare would lead to 15 percent of low-income and rural women losing access to any kind of family planning services, the Congressional Budget Office predicted on Monday.

The GOP’s American Health Care Act bars Medicaid from reimbursing Planned Parenthood for health services provided to low-income women because some of Planned Parenthood’s clinics offer abortions. This would force more than half of its 2.5 million patients to look for birth control and family planning services elsewhere. In rural areas where there simply aren’t other options, many women will be left without care.

The CBO report explains:

To the extent that there would be reductions in access to care under the legislation, they would affect services that help women avert pregnancies. The people most likely to experience reduced access to care would probably reside in areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations. CBO projects that about 15 percent of those people would lose access to care.

The CBO estimates that in addition to leaving 24 million Americans uninsured, the GOP plan would reduce federal spending on Medicaid by $178 million in 2017. The program accounts for three-quarters of all public dollars spent on family planning and pays for nearly half of U.S. births.

As The Huffington Post reported last week, the Republican health care plan would likely lead to a spike in unintended pregnancies and unplanned births by slashing women’s access to family planning services. This policy change would be a huge departure from Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, which drove unintended pregnancies down 18 percent and led to a record low abortion rate in the United States by making birth control essentially free for millions of women.

“We’ve made tremendous gains in this country thanks to expanded access to reproductive health care and birth control,” said Dana Singiser, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood. “We are at a 30 year low in unintended pregnancies, and a historic low in teen pregnancies. Now is not the time to roll that progress back.”

Supporters of Planned Parenthood rally outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit on Feb. 11, 2017.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood rally outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit on Feb. 11, 2017.
Rebecca Cook/Reuters

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says federally qualified community health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics and therefore can absorb all of the provider’s patients. “They’re in virtually every community, providing the same kinds of services,” he insisted at a recent town hall meeting.

But that’s not even true in his own district: In Wisconsin’s Racine and Walworth counties,​​ where nearly half of Ryan’s constituents live, there are two Planned Parenthood clinics and zero federally qualified community health centers offering family planning services.

Some Republicans in Congress have warned that defunding Planned Parenthood will torpedo the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) already said they cannot support the plan if it slashes women’s access to health care, and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) recently expressed concerns that the move would be too politically risky.

“I think we should also separate out the Planned Parenthood issue from the broader health care issue,” he said. “I think health care reform is controversial and complex enough without Planned Parenthood. Why put it in? It makes this whole exercise more difficult.”

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