Houston's Planned Parenthood argues that slashing funding cuts uninsured womendeepest
Planned Parenthood lost a battle in the House of Representatives when a stopgap spending bill passed in a 245-180 vote recently — and the fallout could be felt in Houston. The bill would strip Planned Parenthood of $70 million in annual funding.
While it must still pass the Senate to go into effect, the prospect of lost funding could put into jeopardy the extent of Planned Parenthood's family planning services, which include providing contraception, screening for cancer and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
The spending bill amendment, introduced by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., denies federal family-planning funds to any organization that performs abortions, even though the federal funding Planned Parenthood receives is not used directly for abortions.
"This isn't abortion — it's health care," Rochelle Tafolla of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast tells CultureMap.
"Just the absurdity of all of this is what really strikes me," she adds. "We're facing such huge problems with the economy and jobs, so this particular attack on women's health just reflects how extreme of a political agenda their focus is on."
Patients at the Houston-based office of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast receive a broad range of health services, many of which provide life-saving outlets for low income women. Tafolla reports that more than 60,000 women have their services at Planned Parenthood paid for by federal funding.
"If we detect a lump in their breast, we can refer them to another provider," she explains. "If a pap smear comes out negative, then we can resolve that immediately. We can catch cervical cancer before it's too late. All of these aspects of our services would no longer receive funding from the federal government."
Harris County, which Tafolla says has the highest number of uninsured citizens of all counties in the United States, would suffer greatly from the cut. For many local patients, the annual exam at Planned Parenthood represents the only healthcare service they receive for the entire year.
"The real impact is on the individual woman: How will she get her health care?" Tafolla asks.
The dual opposition to legal abortion and providing birth control also presents a logical loophole. What's more, the potential closures of Planned Parenthood facilities means a new set of unemployed physicians.
The Senate vote on FY11 Continuing Resolution is expected by March 4, when the current spending bill expires. Texas senator John Cornyn firmly opposes abortion rights, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has historically wavered on the topic.
"We're hoping more common sense values will stop the bill in the Senate," Tafolla says.