Planned Parenthood — what a concept. A premeditated decision to have sex with the sole purpose of reproduction. Today, that concept seems about as arbitrary as arranged marriage or civil unions. But not to the majority of the House of Representatives.
On Feb. 18, 2011, the House concluded, by a vote of 240-185, to remove the Title X Family Planning Program of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the only federal grant program providing low-income families or uninsured individuals with comprehensive health care services. Its replacement — the Pence Amendment, named after its sponsor Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), would ban all federal funding to such clinics like Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood services more than five million clients from its 865 clinics annually, making it the largest family planning provider in the U.S. Yet, if the Pence amendment passes, as it is expected, those plastic turquoise membership cards won’t mean jack for Jill any longer.
No more contraceptive rings, patches or pills, no more screening for cervical cancer, breast cancer or diabetes, no more flu shots, pap smears or sexually transmitted infection tests and no more Plan B or access to legal abortion referral services — on the government’s dime, that is.
In 1970, when Title X was established, nearly half of Planned Parenthood’s revenue was funded by private individuals, foundations and corporations. Fast forward 41 years later, and the philanthropy had diminished by one quarter, leaving Medicaid, and by proxy taxpayers, to foot a third of the organization’s bill.
According to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Annual Report, the 2008-2009 annual income was $1.04 billion — and a third of that is nearly $350 million.
With the bulk of the House in support to defunding Planned Parenthood, the organization will likely go out of business.
But the solution to the problem, like most solutions to most problems, will not be found by stripping the money nor by covering it. Rather, the solution can be found somewhere in the middle.
Planned Parenthood is often the only health care source for low-income and unisured women. So cutting off all federal grants is not the answer.
At the same time, the U.S. is less than $300 billion away from the self-imposed $14.294 trillion debt ceiling. So continuing funding isn’t an option either.
If the taxpayers, the government and Planned Parenthood itself, put as much effort into donations, fundrasing and grants as they have with this legislation, then Congress can quit wasting its time talking about saving money and actually save money.
Last week the Senate rejected the House-approved amendment. But it won’t be long until round two is drafted and back in the Senate’s hands. And when that happens, I hope that Republicans and Democrats alike can agree on two things: that Planned Parenthood should not be fully defunded and that Rep. Mike Pence is a psycho.