Plans to reduce the federal deficit by slashing funds for Planned Parenthood facilities would have a grave effect on local health care.
Officials at Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio said proposed cuts could force the closing of centers like the newly refurbished one in the Fairfax neighborhood that serves East Cleveland and Shaker as well as others in Greater Cleveland.
On February 18, Republicans in the House voted to end funding for Title X, a grant that provides $317 million in medical assistance to low-income Americans.
In Northeast Ohio, that money provided crucial health care to 100,000 patients in 35 health centers and 10 counties in which cities such as Warrensville, Cleveland and Akron are represented, officials said. It also provided 60,395 medical tests for sexually transmitted diseases, 14,057 cervical cancer screenings and 11,934 breast cancer screenings.
The Senate is expected to tackle the issue this month and Planned Parenthood officials are mounting an aggressive campaign to urge senators to override the House.
“These proposals are a threat to health care in Cleveland,’’ said Tara Broderick, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio. “Sixty percent of the patients we see are below the poverty line. We are very concerned and we are in full activist mode.’’
Last year the agency merged two older centers that were previously located in East Cleveland and Shaker Square. The staffs and equipment were combined in the renovated health center in Church Square on East 79th Street. The Church Square center provides health care to some of the poorest residents in Cleveland, Broderick said. Without federal funding, that center will likely close.
Only two facilities, Rocky River and Old Brooklyn, would likely be able to function without federal dollars. Those centers receive the bulk of their funding from self-paying patients and private insurance companies. “For every $1 spent we save $4 in Medicaid savings,’’ Broderick said. The proposal not only cuts Title X funds, but also prevents Planned Parenthood from getting any federal funding. “It will be hard to survive without it,’’ she said. “We are all very concerned.’’
Planned Parenthood supporters launched the Stand With Planned Parenthood campaign, which has already gathered 800,000 signatures.
Broderick hopes the action won’t be too late. She said removing health care in poor and uninsured neighborhoods would not cut the abortion rate.
Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge of Cleveland said she strongly opposes the measure. “House Republicans are so fixated on punishing Planned Parenthood that they would deny women access to a vitally needed health care resource,” Fudge said. “From cancer and HIV screenings to family planning services, women turn to Planned Parenthood for a vast array of medical care. In some communities it is their only health care provider.
“It saddens me to think of how many women and girls may delay treatment or go without reproductive health services if this politically motivated action prevails.”
Nationally the cuts will be devastating, others said.
For 95 years, Planned Parenthood has provided medical care and family planning services to women across the country.
“One in five American women has received care from a Planned Parenthood health center during her lifetime,’’ said Cecile Richards, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of America.
Last year, three million patients came to one of more than 800 health centers nationwide. “We are trusted by millions of women and families, and we deliver care to those who need it most,’’ Richards said.
The proposal is an attempt to undermine Planned Parenthood, the organization in the United States that does more than any other to encourage the use of contraception for those wanting to avoid pregnancy, says Richards. She added that the amendment would not reduce the deficit or improve the economy. In fact, health professionals will actually lose their jobs as a result, and, most egregiously, it takes health care away from American women who cannot afford to pay for it on their own.
“For many Americans, our doctors and nurses are the only health care providers they see,” she said. Nikki Pitts, 24, of Cleveland used health care services at the Planned Parenthood Center in East Cleveland for seven years. She now goes to the center in Fairfax and says that the family planning and birth control help was crucial for her when she became a mother.
“If they close, there will be a lot of young women who will not get health care,” Pitts said. “I have a lot of friends who don’t have insurance and Planned Parenthood was one place they could get medical care.”
By Maggi Martin NV contributing writer