As readers of the Femorandum are undoubtedly aware, the US Senate is currently working frantically to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and eliminate insurance coverage for 22 million Americans. (If you haven’t called your senators yet, there’s still time! Find out their contact information here). Repealing the ACA would particularly impact vulnerable women who need family planning services or rely on Planned Parenthood for health care, along with their families.
But regardless of what happens with the health care bill, Republicans in the House are moving forward with a proposal to zero out Title X funding for family planning services, eliminating $300 million in funding for family planning for low-income women, including $60 million in funding for Planned Parenthood. The cuts, according to Rewire, will disproportionately impact “a diverse population of people with low incomes.”
Of 4 million patients who benefit from Title X funding, “30 percent self-identified as Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or American Indian or Alaska Native; 32 percent self-identified as Hispanic or Latino; and 13 percent had limited English proficiency.”
Republicans who advocate cutting Planned Parenthood’s funding have argued, consistently and inaccurately, that women who need family planning services can simply go to community clinics. Pro-choice advocates have pointed out that community clinics that provide family planning services are already badly overburdened, and that many of the “clinics” Planned Parenthood opponents suggest women use aren’t clinics at all.
It’s easy to laugh at the suggestion that women seeking birth control go to a dentist or a school nurse. But a real-world experiment on the results of cutting funds for Planned Parenthood has been going on in Texas, and the results have been devastating. The Huffington Post reports that according to a study by researchers at Texas A&M University, in the first three years after Texas lawmakers slashed the state’s family planning budget—forcing the closure of more than 80 women’s health clinics—the abortion rate among teenagers has actually increased. The cuts, in other words, are accomplishing exactly the opposite of their stated goal—and doing so at a time when the teen pregnancy and abortion rate nationwide is actually going down.
According to HuffPo, “The greatest rises in abortion rates occurred in rural areas, where access to affordable family planning care was already scarce. In Gregg County, where the local health center lost 60 percent of its family planning funding, the abortion rate increased by 191 percent between 2012 and 2014.” What prevents abortion? Medically accurate sex education (also in short supply in Texas) combined with access to birth control and other family planning services. People who need abortions will find ways to access them, even in states like Texas that try to make it as difficult and financially draining as possible.
Another state that’s engaged in an incredibly misguided attempt to stop women from accessing a legal medical procedure is Arkansas, where lawmakers just passed a bill that will require women seeking abortions to inform and potentially get permission from the men who impregnated them, even in pregnancies that result from rape or incest. The bill accomplishes this by including fetuses in a rule that requires family members to agree on how to dispose of human remains—a change that also, conveniently, opens the door to “personhood” for embryonic tissue. The legislation also requires women under 18 to get permission from their parents for abortions. NARAL Pro-Choice America and the American Civil Liberties Union are among many groups opposing this outrageous violation of women’s rights, the Independent reports.
Women who choose abortion in Arkansas must also undergo mandatory “counseling” and wait 48 hours before getting the procedure, requirements designed to scare women out of having abortions and make the procedure, which often requires women to travel and take days off work, prohibitively expensive.
One state that’s working to fight back against restrictions on abortion access is Oregon, where lawmakers passed a bill this week that will require insurance companies to cover abortion at no cost to patients. The Huffington Post reports that the bill, which aims to both preempt ACA repeal and expand access to coverage beyond what all other states, including Washington, require, would also extend abortion coverage to undocumented immigrants and keep abortion legal in Oregon, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Thanks to Initiative 120, which Washington State voters passed in 1991, abortion rights are protected at the state level; however, Washington legislators have consistently failed to pass a reproductive parity bill that would ensure women women have access to abortion coverage through their insurance companies.