Access to women's health care a "political conversation"
Scary times are ahead for women if federal legislators decide to cut Title X funding, panelists said at the recent League of Women Voters of Central Yavapai County meeting, where they discussed The Impact of Defunding Family Planning at Las Fuentes Retirement Village.
Title X is the Family Planning Program enacted in 1970 under President Richard Nixon as part of the Public Health Service Act - unanimously approved by the Senate, Bre Thomas, CEO of Arizona Family Health Partnership, pointed out.
Title X money provides comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. Both the Arizona Family Health Partnership and Planned Parenthood organizations receive funds from Title X.
Of concern for the panelists Saturday, Sept. 12, were bills awaiting action by the U.S. House and Senate later this month. If the bills are approved, legislators would cut $286 million from the Title X program, $81 million from Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, and $22 million from Maternal and Child Health Block Grant. This would deny 4 million women access to health care service, some of whom reside in Yavapai County.
About 2,200 individuals received services through Yavapai County Community Health Services at three centers (Prescott, Prescott Valley and Cottonwood) this past year, said Jane Chapman, reproductive health manager with YCCHS. About 18 percent were teenagers.
Title X funds provide family planning health care for women, men and teens of reproductive age (ages 14-44) that includes reproductive life planning, counseling and education; birth control; pregnancy testing and options counseling; physical exams, including cervical and breast cancer screening; sexually transmitted infections screening and HIV testing; emergency contraception; and basic infertility physical exams.
Arizona has 29 clinics in 10 counties that draw upon a $4.5 million grant. The Navajo Nation receives $500,000 in a second grant, Thomas said. About 80 percent of clients are at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, and 11 percent are male.
Parental involvement is encouraged when teens come into the Family Health Centers, but it is not required. The centers base the income status of teens on the teens' income if they come in without a parent, or in addition to parents' income when they come together. Clients are not denied services if they are unable to pay, and proof of citizenship is not required.
Federal Title X regulations require confidentiality protection for all information gathered during the providing of services, unless the client gives written permission to release information, or if it falls under mandated reporting for child abuse.
Thomas explained that when clients come in, they are asked if they are planning to have a child in the next 12 months. If the answer is yes, they are given prenatal care education. If not right now, they receive information on contraception and healthy timing and spacing of children.
If the client is pregnant, the center is required by law to give option counseling that includes adoption, keeping the baby, and termination.
"If they are confused, they get scientific, unbiased information," Thomas said.
About 60 percent of women who obtain care at a center consider it their usual medical care; 40 percent say it is their only source of medical care. Chapman said, in addition to family planning services, she provides multi-vitamins to pregnant women, and refers clients for dental care and vaccinations, for example. She estimates Yavapai County Community Health sees only 23 percent of residents in need of family planning services.
Kelley Dupps, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Arizona, described the agency's function as one that "advocates, educates and provides quality care." Arizona has five offices; the closest one to Prescott is in Flagstaff.
Chapman said the Prescott Planned Parenthood offices closed in 2010 due to lost funding and decreased employee hours; it opened an office in Prescott Valley, but closed nearly two years later.
"To be sustainable, we had to consolidate," said Dupps, who has nearly 20 years of experience as a professional community and political organizer. "Health care is now political."
Dupps talked about a recent video posted online about family planning clinics selling "baby parts" as untrue; the video had been spliced 42 times to create false information that has people calling for shutting down Planned Parenthood facilities. Embryonic tissue cells have been used in research for many years, and several vaccines, including polio, chicken pox, rubella and shingles were first developed using embryonic tissue cells.
"These are a big deal for research. I have a grandmother with Alzheimer's and it matters to me. We know the value of it," Dupps said, referring to current stem cell studies on medical conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
She said opponents of Planned Parenthood are attempting to engage supporters "by grossing us out and pissing us off."
"They say taxpayer money goes to pay for abortions. No, it does not. Not federal. Not state," Dupps said. "People are using this for political gain, and they're doing it on the backs of women. It's important to say that."
Thomas concurred, saying the best way for opponents to defund Planned Parenthood is to eliminate the Title X budget.
"It's now a political conversation when it's really about access to care," she said.
The Arizona Family Health Partnership website reports that its services prevented 6,800 pregnancies in 2014, of which 3,370 would have resulted in unintended births, 2,320 in abortions, and 1,110 in miscarriages. Services also prevented an estimated 510 combined chlamydia and gonorrhea infections. Thomas said these services saved Arizona $59.7 million in health care, delivery and childcare costs.
In 2012, Arizona women gave birth to 85,725 babies; 53 percent of those deliveries were paid for by Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System at a cost of more than $10,000 per pregnancy, according to Arizona Family Health Partnership information. Every $1 of funding spent on contraceptive and preventive health services saves $11.27 in Medicaid costs for pregnancy and infant care.
The League of Women Voters' official position states, "The national League believes that public policy in a pluralistic society must affirm the Constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices."