GOP’s Obamacare repeal would prevent low-income women from using Planned Parenthood health clinics

Both Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain want to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, although neither has said they will vote for the Senate healthcare bill.
Both Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain want to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, although neither has said they will vote for the Senate healthcare bill.

The United States Senate is primed to vote on the newest version of their secretive health care bill, the Better Care Rehabilitation Act (better known as Trumpcare) sometime after the Fourth of July recess.

First on the cutting block are the poor. The Congressional Budget Office estimated it would increase the number of uninsured Americans by roughly 22 million over the next decades, primarily through cuts to Medicaid (or, as it's known in Arizona, AHCCCS), and insurers being able to return to the practice of shunning those with pre-existing conditions if given permission by states.

Republicans, despite many denials that there is no GOP "war on women," couldn't help but go after their favorite target, Planned Parenthood.

Buried in the bill is a provision to bar Planned Parenthood from accepting Medicaid patients, a constituency that makes up nearly half of their clients. Under current law, although no federal funding can go to abortion services, Medicaid patients are allowed to use the healthcare provider of their choice for other services.

But if the GOP plan passes, men and women who rely on Planned Parenthood for critical medical services such as mammograms and health screenings will have to look elsewhere.

Both of Arizona GOP senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, have not yet said if they will vote for the Obamacare repeal, although both have been critical of Obamacare and both have repeatedly voted to block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding.

Beth Lynk, press officer for Planned Parenthood, called the Senate bill unacceptable and and said it created a "mean-spirited policy that hurts millions of women,"

Such a decision would have real world consequences, Lynk warned, offering up the voices of women who had used Planned Parenthoods services.

Jillian McLeod-Tardiff of Portland, Maine, is one of those voices. "I first went to Planned Parenthood when I was a college student and didn't have health insurance," she said. "They helped me figure out the form of birth control that worked best for me and helped me access it on a sliding scale payment."

Silvia Avila of Phoenix echoed that sentiment. "Planned Parenthood's health centers helped me get birth control when I didn't have health insurance. I couldn't afford it any other way," she said.

That sentiment might be lost on one of Tucson's members of Congress. Martha McSally (R-AZ02) has consistently voted to defund Planned Parenthood. McSally has taken the view that community health centers will pick up the inevitable slack left by eliminating Planned Parenthood.

"These centers offer all of the non-abortion services that Planned Parenthood offers, such as family planning and birth control services," former McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak told the Weekly in February. He also noted that, combined, these health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood "18 to 1" in southern Arizona.

But when asked several times to provide the names of anyone who managed a community health center who would express interest taking on the job of providing the services that Planned Parenthood now delivers, McSally's office was unable to come up with someone who supported such a plan.

But sources close to community health centers have told the Weekly that, besides offering a wide range of services including cancer screenings, birth control services and the like, Planned Parenthood fills a vital niche in sexual health care. Because it offers anonymous and confidential care, many sexually active adults prefer to get treatment at Planned Parenthood clinics rather than from their primary care doctors.

The GOP plan to block low-income women from using the doctor of their choice ignores the trust Planned Parenthood has earned in many youth and minority communities asserted Deja Foxx, a local Planned Parenthood patient.

"Planned Parenthood is where many of my peers and I feel comfortable and encouraged to ask questions; it is the care provider of choice for many Arizonans, especially young people," she said.

After years of threatening legislation, Lynk said the organization is ready for a long fight with Republicans. She said Planned Parenthood and its supporters can see the legislation for what it truly is.

"Singling out Planned Parenthood affirms that the purpose for including the 'defund' Planned Parenthood provision in Trumpcare is not budgetary," she said in a press release. "Instead, it is to advance the political goal of preventing Planned Parenthood health centers from participating in the federal Medicaid program."