The GOP's argument for defunding Planned Parenthood has been incomprehensible. Not only does it make absolutely no sense, but it's also inaccurate. Republican presidential hopefuls like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz have been quick to tell women they could "go somewhere else" for affordable reproductive health care. "There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country," Bush said at one of the earlier Republican primary debates. But a new study proves that claim is far from the truth.
The new study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas in Austin, reveals the impact that blocking Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas have had, particularly on low-income women — and the results are devastating.
Texas's legal block against Planned Parenthood went into effect in January 2013. According to the study, it caused a 35 percent decline in women using the most effective and time-sensitive forms of birth control, such as IUDs, implants, and injections like Depo-Provera. Because of the cuts, women were not able to receive their injections on time, which are supposed to be administered every three months. The rate of women who were receiving them fell from 57 percent to 38 percent. This lead to an increase in pregnancies.
In fact, births among women who were previously using injectable contraception increased by 27 percent. That's significant. This has especially been the case for lower-income women who don't have access to the most effective forms of birth control, despite what politicians claim.
Republicans have insisted that these women can find alternative providers to meet their needs. Ohio pro-life senators even suggested food banks as a Planned Parenthood substitute. Mind you, while a fraction of them might actually provide STD or HIV testing, most of these places don't provide reproductive health services at all.
Sure, women with higher incomes might be able to find alternatives. But Planned Parenthood is often the only accessible health-care provider for low-income women in this country, especially Latinas.
They have over 650 health centers throughout the U.S., providing sexual and reproductive health care to more than 5 million women across the country each year. Latinas make up 30 percent of Planned Parenthood's patient base in Texas alone.
"Nationally, the political attacks to 'defund' Planned Parenthood would threaten services for more than 575,000 Latinas who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic preventive health care, including lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections each year," says Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood. "The people who benefit from this funding often have limited-care access, and we are often their primary health-care provider."
What Republicans don't seem to realize is that defunding Planned Parenthood doesn't mean other providers will step up. That's a massive patient load that would cost tons of money.
"Community health centers would be considerably strained if Planned Parenthood and other women's health-care providers were not involved in the safety-net health care system," Ferrero adds. "Community Health Centers — or federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) — that focus on primary care services can provide great care, but they aren't necessarily equipped to fill an influx of reproductive health-care patients — and often already rely on local family providers like Planned Parenthood to fill that need."
The GOP can claim that women have other options until they are blue in the face, but this study proves that's clearly not the case. Instead of getting health care elsewhere, these women didn't get health care at all and wound up getting pregnant — not okay!