Watch List: Health Care 1. Planned Parenthood

This week is a big one in Washington, D.C. The Republican majority is going to try to ram through a bunch of things quickly in hopes that we don’t have time to assess and react. Keep watch, and call your representatives on things that you think they should oppose (or support). Here is a good guide to effectively doing this (I also follow Emily Ellsworth on Twitter):  I am calling and hope you will, too. Contact information for your House representative is here and for your senators is here. The phone calls are quick and easy when you have a few talking points (you can email, too, but it may not be as effective). Here are some thoughts about Planned Parenthood:

Planned Parenthood
I understand that many conservatives are opposed to abortion, and this seems to be at the root of efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood. But Federal funds can’t be used by Planned Parenthood on abortions, so why take this out on the millions of women reliant on PP’s health services? Philosophical or ideological reasons? Take better aim at the actual issues. People (and politicians) need to realize the huge amount of good that Planned Parenthood does with myriad women’s health issues. PP provides important health services like checkups, pre-natal care, nutritional services, and cancer and STD screenings. This demonstrably improves the health of women and children (and is what I would call pro-life). PP’s services are mostly use by low-income women. In other words, if you de-fund this, you leave their health issues largely out in the cold. Susan Davis of NPR has a good article out on the de-funding effort. Key quote: “Public polling has consistently shown that the majority of Americans oppose cutting off all funding for Planned Parenthood.” Call your reps to remind them.

What happens when you de-fund PP? The great state of Texas has already conducted that experiment, and here is how Caroline O. (scientist and statistician) summarized a recent study (on Twitter; she is @RVAwonk): “Maternal mortality in Texas doubled in 2011 & 2012 – right after they slashed funding for Planned Parenthood.” and “Texas defunded PP. Now they have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world.” The paper is here, and Caroline O. provided a figure from it, pasted here at right (the paper is paywalled, unfortunately, but @RVAwonk has good credentials, so I trust her summary of the study’s [1] results).

It looks to me like a vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood is a vote to take away important health care from millions, making them (and their children) sicker and, yes, basically killing some in the process. What gain is there in this? Score ideological points with punitive consequences for millions—but outside the scope of the contentious issues at the core? Makes no sense to me. Effective women’s health care should not be sacrificed in this manner for these reasons.

(1) MacDorman et al. 2016. Recent Increases in the U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate: Disentangling Trends From Measurement Issues. Obstetrics & Gynecology 128:447–455.
doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001556

10 Jan 2017 update: Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski does support the good work that Planned Parenthood does: “And I commit to ensuring women continue to have access to preventative healthcare that has been provided by Planned Parenthood.” Will Senator Sullivan as well?