By Mark S. Defrancesco
Cutting off Planned Parenthood's health centers from government funding, including Medicaid and the Title X family-planning program, would also cut off many of the 2.7 million women, men, and teenagers who rely on Planned Parenthood every year for needed health services. This would be irresponsible.
As an ob-gyn, I know that women need access to quality care, and the care patients receive from Planned Parenthood goes beyond family planning.
Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics screen women for cervical cancer and breast cancer. About 245,000 American women are diagnosed with these diseases each year.
The clinics test and treat patients for sexually transmitted infections, in many cases preventing further infections.
Planned Parenthood health-care professionals also provide family-planning services, which may include birth-control counseling and prescriptions, pregnancy testing, prenatal care, and abortion - all legal activities.
Family planning is an integral part of health care. Birth control prevents unintended pregnancies, and because of that, reduces the number of abortions. It also allows women to choose if and when to start families. It provides time for women to reach optimal health before becoming pregnant, which means healthier pregnancies. It allows families to plan pregnancies that work on their schedules. It even helps women and men complete their educations and pursue careers.
Without question, restricting the ability of Planned Parenthood health clinics to receive public funding will result in fewer women and families having access to quality health care.
Current law requires Planned Parenthood to demonstrate that no federal funds are used for abortion. Because of that, preventing clinics from receiving federal dollars won't prevent abortions. Quite the opposite: Reduced access to contraception care will surely lead to an increase in unintended pregnancy.
Ultimately, defunding Planned Parenthood will lead to fewer American patients getting the quality health care they need. The suggestion that America's health-care infrastructure can support these millions of displaced patients is simply wrong.
Right now, more than 50 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in medically underserved areas. Without access to Planned Parenthood clinics, many women - especially low-income women - would have nowhere else to turn.
Even outside shortage areas, few physician offices have the capacity to take on a large number of new patients, especially those with publicly funded coverage.
With half of all U.S. births covered by Medicaid, women's health demands associated with the Medicaid program are significant.
Unfortunately, few physicians outside of the women's health specialty are trained in the services that women may need.
For example, long-acting reversible contraceptives - such as intrauterine devices and hormonal implants - are among the most effective methods of birth control, providing women with as many as 12 years of contraception. However, counseling about and employing these devices require training and familiarity and cannot be done by all health-care professionals.
Once again, imposing barriers to care by defunding Planned Parenthood will only represent a step back in the nation's effort to improve women's health and avoid unintended pregnancy.
Public funding of birth control ultimately saves money. A study by the Guttmacher Institute showed that every publicly funded dollar spent on family planning saved the government nearly six dollars in 2010.
I have been involved in women's health care for many years, and I recognize the value of Planned Parenthood clinics. Restricting access to funding will have a resounding, negative effect on women and on our communities.