Friday, April 1, 2011

The Fiscal Irresponsibility of Anti-Choice Politicians: More Lies about the Budget

GOP leaders at both the state and federal level have turned the very definition of limited, small government on its head.  The onslaught of ideologically extreme anti-choice legislation at the state and federal level has transformed the notion of fiscal conservatism and limited government into an obvious charade.  Yet, most of the traditional, mainstream media makes no mention of this all consuming hypocrisy. 

Eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood will likely cost the government more money in both the short and long run, adding to the deficit.  Simply put, Planned Parenthood offers extremely cost-effective care compared to other government-funded providers, and each dollar spent on contraception saves taxpayers multiple dollars down the line.”  Defunding Planned Parenthood will force its patients to seek out health care services at other clinics.  And these other Title X clinics “…typically charge the government more for the same services.”    

In fact, “Planned Parenthood cost Medicaid an average of $154 for a patient's contraceptive care in a year, while other clinics spent $244 a year per patient.  Just pushing contraceptive care for Medicaid patients from Planned Parenthood to other clinics would thus cost the government an additional $225 million a year.”

There are many reasons why Planned Parenthood is so cost effective:

·         Drug companies are mandated by federal law to provide deep discounts to Title X clinics;
·         Planned Parenthood has incorporated the latest and most cost effective preventative care measures such as providing pelvic exams once every three years versus once a year; 
·         Planned Parenthood is “…the biggest reproductive health care provider in the country, with more than 800 clinics nationwide...  [and they’re]… able to do national purchasing for medical supplies and other things at lower costs."

So, if Planned Parenthood is defunded Medicaid would end up paying more for contraception, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings.   And without access to Planned Parenthood, other Title X clinics would become overwhelmed with patients creating a longer and longer waiting lists for critical care. 

The Guttmacher Institute estimated in 2008 that every dollar spent on family planning saves taxpayers $3.74 in government spending on prenatal care, childbirth, and the first year of an infant's health care.  But if more women who are financially stressed end up bearing children they don't want, the costs of pregnancy and infant care will quickly be dwarfed by government spending on public assistance, food stamps, and health care.

The Hartford Courant explained how defunding Planned Parenthood would devastate Connecticut women:

More than 60,000 Connecticut women this year will visit the local clinics of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England for basic health care, breast and gynecological exams, birth control, abortions and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases.
If the House GOP has its way, in Connecticut alone 20,000 women that rely on Medicaid to pay for Planned Parenthood services would be left out in the cold. 
Title X clinics in Connecticut are already overburdened and could not handle the influx of these new patients; inevitably these women would not receive access to vital health care services.  The president of the Community Health Center Inc. in Connecticut explained "[m]any women in the state would just go without vital reproductive health services…This is what people just don't seem to understand.  There just is no other capacity in Connecticut for what Planned Parenthood provides."

Finally, Connecticut’s health commissioner noted that the national teen birth rate has been dropping “…with Connecticut registering the fourth-lowest teen birth rate in the country” and that Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive care services “…especially to the urban poor — have played an important role in lowering the teen birth rate.” 

This House GOP sponsored plan is antithetical to fiscal conservatism.  But the hypocrisy of the House GOP leadership does not end with defunding Planned Parenthood.  Mother Jones recently reported that while the House GOP has defended stripping Planned Parenthood and other Title X funding programs as critical for deficit reduction, Representative Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) introduced a bill in January that “…would provide federal funds for the purchase of sonogram machines at organizations that counsel women against having an abortion…” 

H.R. 165 would “…authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to nonprofit tax-exempt organizations for the purchase of ultrasound equipment to provide free examinations to pregnant women needing such services, and for other purposes.”

In order to qualify for a grant under H.R. 165 “…a facility would have to show every woman seeking services the ultrasound image and describe to them the ‘general anatomical and physiological description of the characteristics of the fetus.’"  Additionally, the facility must provide "alternatives to abortion such as childbirth and adoption and information concerning public and private agencies that will assist in those alternatives.”  Planned Parenthood and all abortion providers would be ineligible for these grants because the facility receiving the grant cannot charge patients for their services. 

…hypocrisy in its most obvious form…As Republicans seek to defund Planned Parenthood and deny vital health care services to American women most in need, they want to spend taxpayer dollars to support crisis pregnancy centers, which have become anti-choice groups' sneaky alternative to legitimate reproductive health clinics…These deceiving clinics entice women who are seeking abortions and then subject them to ultrasounds—with the explicit goal of convincing them not to have an abortion.
A 2006 House Energy and Commerce Committee report found that from 2001 to 2006 the Department of Health and Human Services provided limited service pregnancy centers with $30 million; and since 2007 these fake clinics have received another $9.3 million in funding. 

But these fake clinics are now getting a further imprimatur from South Dakota.  South Dakota’s governor just signed a law that forces women to be “counseled” at these fake clinics before a woman can get an abortion.  This is the first law in the nation requiring women seeking abortions to submit to forced counseling at typically Christian fundamentalist organizations.  And the intent of the law is very clear:

It is a necessary and proper exercise of the state's authority to give precedence to the mother's fundamental interest in her relationship with her child over the irrevocable method of termination of that relationship by induced abortion.

Interestingly, some of the very same benefactors that have supported Live Action and Lila Rose’s “sting” operation against Planned Parenthood are donating money to a South Dakota fund set up to defend the new anti-choice law in court.  The “Life Protect Fund” has been receiving a steady stream of donations in anticipation of a legal challenge to the South Dakota law. 

And even though there has been some limited progress geared towards exposing these fake clinics; the NYC Council approved consumer protection legislation to hold limited service pregnancy centers (LSPC) accountable by requiring that women be informed about what services they do and do not provide, similar legislation that would have held LSPCs accountable in Washington State  expired on March 7th without a vote before the State House .  NARAL Pro-Choice WA, Planned Parenthood VOTES!, Legal Voice, and other women’s groups will try again in the next legislative session. 

Meanwhile a federal district court judge in Maryland issued a ruling on March 15th that weakened a law in Montgomery County requiring LSPCs to post information about the services they provide.  The judge ruled that LSPCs cannot be forced to post signs stating “Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.”  However, the judge did uphold the county’s right to have LSPCs post signs telling women that the center is not staffed by licensed medical professionals.  A trial date on the validity of the ruling has not yet been scheduled. 

A similar law in Baltimore was declared unconstitutional by another federal district court judge in January; the judge concluded that the Baltimore law violated the First Amendment by requiring LSPCs to engage in “forced” speech. 

These fake clinics are unregulated, are generally staffed by volunteers and not by medical professionals, and they often lie to women about the health risks associated with abortion and contraception.  You can read more about LSPC’s deceptive practices in Washington in this investigatory report prepared by Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood VOTES!  And here’s a recent article in Slate describing the kind of “counseling” women typically endure at LSPCs. 

The House GOP leadership’s hypocrisy has never been clearer:  trying to defund Planned Parenthood with one hand, and falsely claim that defunding it will save the country money, while simultaneously seeking to fund LSPCs with the other hand.  And the mainstream media’s ongoing silence betrays their obligation to expose this hypocrisy, with women paying the ultimate price.  

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