Planned Parenthood = Primary, Preventive Care

Jodi Jacobson

As the health care reform debate heats up, Planned Parenthood Action Fund today has launched a multimedia campaign focused on the central role played by Planned Parenthood affiliates in communities across the nation.

As the Obama Administration and Congress turn their full attention to reforming the nation’s health care system, Planned Parenthood Action Fund today has launched a multimedia campaign focused on the central role played by Planned Parenthood affiliates in communities across the nation: Providing millions of Americans with essential primary and preventive health care every day.  The campaign’s website
will serve as a hub for online education and advocacy and provides
links to television and web ads, and a range of interviews with providers, clients, and parents of students who have received care from Planned Parenthood.

“Women’s health care must be a priority [in health care reform]," states Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards.  "As a trusted health care
provider, Planned Parenthood knows firsthand how critical it is to
expand access to health care, including reproductive health care."  Facts about Planned Parenthood’s services, meant to counter the misinformation often spread about Planned Parenthood centers, are detailed in the television ads launched as part of the campaign, one of which can be viewed here

More than 90 percent of the care provided by Planned Parenthood
community health centers daily includes wellness exams, cancer
screenings, immunizations, contraception and STD testing and
treatment.  For millions of women, Planned Parenthood is the only or the primary provider of health care accessible to them economically
and geographically, and a critical entree to other health care services.  In one interview, for example, a counselor describes seeing patients for reproductive health care, one of whom exhibits a persistent cough, leading the counselor to assist the client in finding care for a respiratory infection.

“There are “more than 850 affiliate health centers across
the country, providing primary and preventive care," stated Richards.  "Every year," she continued, the centers provide a wide range of services, including:

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more than
850,000 breast exams, contraception to nearly 2.5 million patients,
more than three million tests and treatments for STDs, including HIV,
and nearly 50,000 colposcopies.

Planned Parenthood’s services are an increasingly critical safety net in an uncertain economy.  Today, roughly 16.7 million women are uninsured, and thus likely to
postpone care and delay or forego important preventive care.  As economic conditions have worsened, the demand on Planned Parenthood centers has surged, as many people who’ve lost their jobs and/or health insurance look to the affiliates for high-quality health care.

"Six in 10 clients consider family
planning centers, like Planned Parenthood health centers, their main
source of health care," according to the campaign website, "and [o]ften, these centers are their only interaction
with the country’s health care system."

The importance of these services to women’s health, and to the health of low-income women and students particularly, can not be overstated.

For example, Planned Parenthood clinics provide nearly one million cervical cancer screenings to women annually.  The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009, about
11,270 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the
United States.
  Non-invasive cervical cancer is estimated by some researchers to be 4 times more common than invasive
cervical cancer.

About 4,070 women will die from cervical cancer in the United
States during 2009 according to the ACS.  The Pap test, which finds early indications of cervical cancer and is one of many screening services provided by Planned Parenthood affiliates, is cited by ACS as the primary reason that the rate of death from cervical cancer, once one of the most common
causes of cancer death for American women, has declined by 74 percent between 1955 and 1992. 

These services are particularly critical to improving the health of low-income women, and Hispanic and African-American women.  Cervical cancer occurs most often in Hispanic women according to ACS; the rate
is over twice that in non-Hispanic white women. African-American women
develop this cancer about 50 percent more often than non-Hispanic white women.  Planned Parenthood helps fill the gap in among uninsured women in these communities by providing essential screening services as one aspect of the overall complement of care women receive.

Screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections are another critical aspect of Planned Parenthood’s basic services, particularly among students and youth.  Lack of comprehensive sexuality education in schools and lack of access to services have led to high rates of sexually transmitted infections in teens throughout the United States. "Some populations of youth
face excessive risk, according to Advocates for Youth, "including African American youth, young women, abused youth,
homeless youth, young men who have sex with men (YMSM), and gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) youth." 

Direct medical costs associated with treatment of STIs costs roughly $15 billion dollars annually in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute. By providing screening and treatment services, and immediate follow-up counseling on preventing new infections, Planned Parenthood centers help improve health and save health care costs more broadly.

“Planned Parenthood health centers have been a trusted provider of
essential, preventive care for more than 90 years," states Richards, [and] Planned Parenthood is part of the solution in fixing America’s broken health care system.”  She continued:

Those who come through Planned Parenthood’s health center doors know they will get quality care at affordable costs.  That’s what we all should be striving for as we work to reform our health care system.

The campaign serves both as a tool for increasing awareness of the full range of services provided by Planned Parenthood, and anticipates attacks on reproductive health care as part of health care reform.

As the health care reform debate moves forward," notes the website,

those who want to deny
access to comprehensive reproductive health care will continue to
target both Planned Parenthood and the health insurance coverage that
meets all the health care needs of women, men, and teens. We need your
help to guarantee that health care reform works for us all.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.


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