As the partisan attack on Planned Parenthood heats up on Capitol Hill this week, a new study published Tuesday found that the women's healthcare provider is in many cases the only source of contraceptive care for minority and low-income women across the country.
The analysis (pdf) was conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based reproductive health research organization, in response to a Congressional Budget Office request.
After examining the most recent data available, Guttmacher found that, "unequivocally that for women in many areas of the country, losing Planned Parenthood would mean losing their chosen provider—and the only safety-net provider around." Safety-net providers are institutions that provide care and services in low-income, medically underserved, immigrant, and communities of color.
The study, published at the Health Affairs blog, found that in one-fifth of the 491 counties in which Planned Parenthood sites are located, they are the sole safety-net family planning center. Further, in two-thirds of those counties, Planned Parenthood serves at least half of all women obtaining contraceptive care from safety-net health centers.
These findings debunk the myth, spread by conservative detractors of Planned Parenthood, that the care provided by the group could be easily supplanted by a publicly-funded safety-net centers, such as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) or county health departments. In fact, the study found that the average Planned Parenthood health center serves "significantly more contraceptive clients each year" than FQHCs, or similar providers.
Further, such community health centers are already chronically underfunded and would be unable to "pick up the slack" if Planned Parenthood's funding were to be slashed, as health policy expert Sara Rosenbaum recently noted. Such cuts, Rosenbaum added, would have a significant impact on the "millions of poor women" dependent on safety-net care.
"Community health centers operate on modest budgets and repeatedly have been shown to be highly efficient," Rosenbaum writes. "But no amount of efficiency can give them the means to ramp up quickly enough to replace the loss of preventive women’s health services of the magnitude that would result were Planned Parenthood clinics to close."
"Unable to access the contraceptive care they need, women would be left to pay the price, as more unintended pregnancies and abortions result," she adds.
On Wednesday, conservative lawmakers are holding the first in a series of congressional committee hearings on Planned Parenthood, pivoting off claims made in the latest smear campaign against the group. Also, a growing number of Republican lawmakers are pledging to oppose any legislation to fund the government that also continues to fund Planned Parenthood.