Four Planned Parenthood of the Heartland health centers in Iowa are being forced to close after a bill was signed by Gov. Terry Branstad. According to the organization, the shuttering of these clinics will affect more than 14,600 patients in the Quad Cities region, and in cities including Burlington, Keokuk, and Sioux City.
The new law requires the state to terminate its Medicaid waiver program and establish a new, state-run program that bars patients from accessing care at specialized family planning and sexual and reproductive health care providers that also provide safe, legal abortion. As a result, Planned Parenthood will be barred from participating in the state’s Medicaid program.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPHeartland) May 18, 2017
According to the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, in 2015 Planned Parenthood served almost half of all patients accessing family planning care at a publicly funded provider. It also served more than 30 percent of the more than 12,000 Iowans who received care through the state’s Medicaid family planning waiver last year. In three out of the four counties with health centers closing, Planned Parenthood served 80 percent or more of the family planning patients in Iowa accessing care at a publicly funded provider in 2015. All of those three health centers — Burlington, Keokuk, and Sioux City — are also located in counties that rank in the top 10 for the highest rates of chlamydia when compared with other counties in the state.
“I am concerned about the health and well-being of the people in Iowa who now can no longer turn to their trusted health care provider,” Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “What is happening in Iowa is what we could see across the country if Congress passes this dangerous law to defund Planned Parenthood. This is hardest on people who already face barriers to accessing health care — especially people of color, young people, people with low to moderate incomes, and people who live in rural areas.”
And if all this sounds familiar, it’s because it closely resembles exactly what played out in Texas several years ago.
In 2011, Texas also created its own, state-run Medicaid program and blocked Planned Parenthood from participating in it as a provider. Within two years, approximately 30,000 fewer women in Texas accessed reproductive and sexual health care services, with Planned Parenthood clinics closing their doors throughout the state as a result of losing their ability to serve Medicaid patients.
And not surprisingly, the parts of Texas where researchers have since seen the greatest decrease in access to sexual and reproductive health care services — including preventive care services, contraception counseling, and cancer screenings — are the places that lost a Planned Parenthood clinic as a result of the state’s “defunding” law. The state has also since seen an increase in unplanned pregnancies among low-income women and a rise in maternal mortality rates.
“We have seen what happens in states like Texas, and now in Iowa, when politicians attack access to care at Planned Parenthood — it’s devastating, and sometimes deadly, for the women who are left with nowhere to turn for care,” McDonald-Mosley said.
An analysis released on Wednesday by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan sexual and reproductive health research and policy group, found that while Federally Qualified Health Centers “are an integral part of the publicly funded family planning effort in the United States,” they simply cannot fill the gap that the “defunding” of Planned Parenthood would create. This is mostly due to the fact that it’s “unrealistic to expect these sites to serve the millions of women who currently rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for contraceptive care.”
Furthermore, the report found that without Planned Parenthood, 27 states would have to at least double their contraceptive client caseload to meet the needs of patients who would be without a provider as a result of not having access to Planned Parenthood. Nine states would have to triple their caseload to accommodate these patients.
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