Planned Parenthood again finds itself at center of maelstrom

By Helen Jeong


When Laura Herrera graduated from college two years ago, finding a job was harder than expected. Soon after, she lost her student health insurance.  She was out of money and out of health insurance. “I had no one to turn to,” Herrera said. “But I still needed to receive basic health care.”

She said she turned to Planned Parenthood to receive basic women’s health care services.

“Planned Parenthood was there for me to receive health care, from gynecological services and birth control to information on reproductive health,” she said.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed last week a budget resolution that completely eliminates the Title X family planning program, meaning millions of people like Herrera may not have access to the free health services by Planned Parenthood.

The U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama are expected to stop the cut from being enacted into law. Still, the attack on Planned Parenthood, and more importantly, on abortion is not well taken by supporters of the organization.

Enacted in 1970, Title X of the Public Health Service Act is the federal grant program dedicated to providing family planning and preventive health services.  In 2010, family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood received about $317 million.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) proposed the Title X amendment to eliminate the federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He was considered to be 2012 presidential hopeful, but announced in January that he would not run.

“It is morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund organizations that provide and promote abortion like Planned Parenthood of America,” Pence said in his floor statement last week.

Video.  Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)

Expressing his “contempt” for Planned Parenthood, he said he vowed to deny any and all funding to the health care provider.  He also said Title X needs to be amended to cut government spending.

“Planned Parenthood received more than $363 million in taxpayer dollars, while also boasting of performing an unprecedented 324,008 abortions,” he said.

But California Democrats and pro-choice advocates voiced their strong opposition to the Pence Amendment on Wednesday, calling it an “assault.”

“Representative Pence’s cynical proposal to cut all Title X family planning funding to Planned Parenthood is a deeply troubling, full-throttle attack,” said U.S. Rep. Jane Harman  (D-CA), who is scheduled to step down from her seat on Monday to take another job.

Los Angeles Unified School District Board member Steve Zimmer echoed Harman’s message, saying the Republican lawmakers are using Planned Parenthood as a scapegoat to interfere with the women’s right to choose.

“They want to throw around the name of Planned Parenthood, forgetting that there are young people affected by this, ” Zimmer said.

Planned Parenthood serves 120,000 patients every year. Zimmer said if the funding for Planned Parenthood is taken away, people in Los Angeles would feel the impact.

“Somewhere out there in Los Angeles in a LAUSD school, there will be young people in crisis,” he said. “They would have no one to turn to except Planned Parenthood.  Their lives are on the line. ”

Video: LAUSD Board member Steve Zimmer

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel said the Republican proposal was Republicans’ excuse to “take on the issue” of Title X.

“Many Republicans never liked Title X.  And [the proposal] has nothing to do with creating jobs or helping new economy,” Greuel said.

Greuel also said Republicans are misinforming the public about Title X and its funds, calling the Pence Amendment “mean-spirited” and “unnecessary.”

“None of the Title X funds is used for abortion services.  This is about women’s access to health services.  If women can’t access services through Planned Parenthood, they will be going to emergency rooms; they will be going to other places, which are much more costly.”

Video: LA City Controller Wendy Greuel

With the Democrats in control of the Senate, the Pence Amendment is unlikely to pass.  But pro-choice activists and patients like Herrera said they will not “stand still” and will continue to fight for women’s right to health care.

“There are millions of people who need these services,” Herrera said. “I’m going to be advocating for the issue and for others around me.  We need to rally.  We need to put a face to the issue.”

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