Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses across the country conduct nearly one million lifesaving screenings for cervical cancer, more than 830,000 breast exams and nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV - and over 6 million tests for sexually transmitted diseases.
But if the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives get their way, this lifesaving medical care would be devastated.
These aren't just numbers. These are real people - people like Jennifer, a woman from Boston who credits Planned Parenthood with perhaps saving her life. Dropping out of college, she had little money and no doctor. She went to Planned Parenthood for a checkup, which discovered she had a precancerous condition of the uterus. Planned Parenthood helped her find a gynecologist who treated the condition. "Because of Planned Parenthood's early intervention, I was able to have two children and a healthy life," she says now.
Planned Parenthood centers are a vital part of health care in Massachusetts as well as in other states. In 2009 alone, the seven centers in our state served 34,738 patients in a wide variety of ways, including 3,422 cervical cancer screenings, 3,427 breast exams and 18,072 tests for Chlamydia - the leading cause of preventable infertility. The centers have also provided more general health services like flu vaccinations, help quitting smoking and screenings for cholesterol, diabetes and anemia.
But now, an ideological agenda cloaked in the guise of reducing our budget deficit, Congressional Republicans are trying to strip Planned Parenthood of money it uses to provide lifesaving, preventative care to millions of women each year. By targeting Planned Parenthood, Republicans are putting women at risk, especially those who have no other place to turn for health care.
This is not the first attempt by Republicans to dismantle Planned Parenthood, but it is the most extreme. They propose the complete elimination of funding for the so-called Title X program, which for more than 40 years has provided federal grants to Planned Parenthood and other organizations for comprehensive family planning and related preventative health care services. But they also want to take it a step further by prohibiting Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds, including Medicaid - a proposal that would cut 1.4 million women off from their health care provider.
This isn't even good fiscal policy - the preventative care saves taxpayers dollars in the long run. Studies indicate that every dollar ends up saving $3.74 of health-related costs to federal and state governments. And to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds, including Medicaid, has dangerous implications for women and families across the country. For many women, and especially those in rural areas and underserved communities and those without insurance, Planned Parenthood is their only source of health care. Forty-eight percent, or about 1.4 million, of Planned Parenthood's patients are on Medicaid.
I understand that we face tough choices ahead in getting our fiscal house in order. I took an unpopular position in my own Party by supporting the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction efforts of the 1980's, and took the tough votes in 1993 and 1997 that balanced the federal budget for the first time in a generation, and I'll do it again today. But eliminating Title X funding and putting Planned Parenthood out of the business of providing preventative health care to Medicaid patients is not about fiscal responsibility. It makes no fiscal sense to stop investing in programs that have a proven track record in saving money, and saving lives. Quite simply, without the care Planned Parenthood provides - without access to Pap smears, pelvic exams and breast exams - women will die. That is not just a fiscal matter. That is a matter of conscience, and a question of who we are as Americans.