Planned Parenthood, the Pence Amendment, and pro-life prayers
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (PPMM) services 29 counties in California and 13 in Nevada, and sees more than 250,000 patients each year. Annually, there are around 24,000 visits to the Santa Cruz location and 16,600 to the Watsonville clinic.
But, according to Fran Linkin, associate director of Public Affairs for PPMM, these figures are “on the low end,” and the clinics have an increasing patient load because of the downturned economy. “We’ve been seeing more and more people as people lose their insurance, or lose their jobs,” she says. “People are really turning to us when they don’t know where to go.”
Linkin says that the most common services sought at Planned Parenthood clinics are “basic reproductive healthcare services, such as contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, STD screenings and treatments, pregnancy testing, HIV testing and UTI testing and treatments.” These services, known as preventive healthcare, along with primary child and adult healthcare, prenatal care, and LGBT services, make up 97 percent of what Planned Parenthoods do. But it is the remaining three percent that gets the most attention and criticism: abortions.
In mid-February, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) successfully added The Pence Amendment to the House of Representative’s measure to fund the government through September in lieu of a passed budget. The amendment, which passed by a vote of 240 to 185, would discontinue all funding for Planned Parenthoods and other Title X health clinics. Although federal monies are already barred from funding abortions because of the Hyde Amendment, Pence, and others like him, are against giving any funding to organizations that also offer abortion services.
The amendment isn’t anticipated to go much further than the House: the Democratically led Senate isn’t expected to go for it, and President Barack Obama has said he wouldn’t sign it even if they did. However, the House’s support for such legislation has reignited a national discussion of Planned Parenthood’s place in our country.
Among the Pence Amendment’s supporters is the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA), a national group of pro-life women. Their president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, stated in a Feb. 18 press release that, “Ending taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood is a non-negotiable … This is a black and white issue and we will accept nothing less than the total defunding of Planned Parenthood in the Continuing Resolution.” SBA has gathered 40,000 signatures on their petition “Stop Funding Abortions.”
Planned Parenthood’s own petition, a letter to congress titled “I Stand With Planned Parenthood,” has more than 700,000 signatures, and is shooting for one million. Linkin says that support for Planned Parenthood is at a high, from the petition signatures, to the Walk for Choice events that were held across the country on Feb. 26, including one here in Santa Cruz, and a spike in social media interest. “We saw a big upsurge on social media,” she says. “[People are] becoming friends or fans of Planned Parenthood on Facebook who hadn’t been previously involved.”
But in addition to this fresh support, the amendment has also caused regional chapters like PPMM to consider what would happen if their federal funding was, hypothetically, terminated.
PPMM receives 58 percent of its funding from the state’s Family Pact program and the federal government’s matching of those funds, 20 percent from Medi-Cal funding and the rest from a combination of contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations, and patient fees from those who can afford them.
While PPMM would fight to continue providing their services, Linkin says it would be challenging without federal funding. “I can’t say without certainty that we wouldn’t have to reduce the amount of people we could see or the services we’d offer,” she says. She estimates that one-fourth of PPMM’s patients—around 65,000 people—would lose services, noting that health centers in poorer areas will be most impacted, because there is very little “private pay” from patients to help keep the centers afloat.
She adds, “I find it baffling that people who are opposed to the right to safe and legal abortion are aiming to cut programs that prevent and reduce the need for abortions.”
Adding to the heated national debate, the 40 Days For Life campaign began its second 40-day-long prayer vigil outside of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country on Wednesday, March 9. However, Santa Cruz 40 Day For Life volunteer Jeff, who wishes to use only his first name, says that their effort is not associated with the push to axe the organization’s federal funding. ““The Pence Amendment and our local prayer vigil are mutually exclusive,” he says. “We are here to pray and let people know there are abortion alternatives in place locally.” Jeff and other pro-life advocates will be hunkered down near the entrance of the Downtown Santa Cruz Planned Parenthood until April 17.
The peaceful, prayer-centered action comes at a time when Planned Parenthood and its supporters also face what they feel are more far-reaching, legislative strikes. “I think we definitely have seen a much more extreme ideological push, and it really has been an attack on women’s health,” says Linkin.
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