Funding Planned Parenthood should be a priority

By the time this column is published, Acting Gov. Richard Codey will have already submitted his budget proposal for the 2006 fiscal year.

Programs that have not spent money wisely will feel the squeeze, but we cannot put that same squeeze on programs that have already used their meager funds frugally.

Planned Parenthood is one such program that deserves every cent it can get.

Over the last few years, Planned Parenthood has lost a lot of its federal funding, leaving the states to pick up the tab.

While it is not fair that Washington cut funds, it would be equally unfair for the states to cut funds, too. Planned Parenthood provides more services to the community than we realize.

Contrary to popular belief, Planned Parenthood’s main function is not to provide abortions, although, like any obstetrician-gynecologist. that offers comprehensive healthcare for women, it does so.

However, its services go far beyond that.

First of all, Planned Parenthood is comprehensive women’s healthcare.

Any woman who is a patient at Planned Parenthood needs a yearly gynecological exam to use the other medical services Planned Parenthood offers.

Every year, these patients are screened for heart and blood pressure problems, breast and cervical cancer and any other abnormalities.

Women are not the only people Planned Parenthood focuses on. Many of the larger centers offer full physicals for all members of the family. For a nominal fee, testing for Sexually Transmitted Diseasess (STDs), such as HIV and AIDS will be performed.

Planned Parenthood also provides prenatal care for unborn children and adoption counseling as an option to women who do not want an abortion, but cannot keep their children.

Patients are given psychological questionnaires that screen them for potential emotional and mental disorders.

If a patient is at risk, she is referred to a psychological counseling center.

In fact, Planned Parenthood will refer a patient with a need for any specialized treatment.

It is known that one of the services Planned Parenthood offers is contraceptives. There, women can obtain contraceptives at or below cost (and condoms are free).

Many women will find that Planned Parenthood charges less for hormonal contraceptives than their pharmacy does, even if they are covered by a health plan.

Now, here’s the kicker – by funding contraceptive coverage, the number of unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, the number of abortions, will be reduced.

Only two percent of women on the birth control pill will become pregnant if the contraceptive is used correctly.

By providing money to Planned Parenthood, there will be fewer abortions.

That’s all well and good you say, but why should the taxpayers’ money cover a doctor? There are doctors everywhere. Why should Planned Parenthood get federal and state money?

Planned Parenthood operates on a sliding pay scale. The more money a patient makes, the more she (or he) pays for a visit or for other services with a charge.

Patients who make the least pay the least.

For example, women on the lowest income tier will pay only $17 per month for coverage on the pill.

That is less than four hours work at the federal minimum wage. For some, this is the only health care they can afford.

Next, over five million people nationwide use the services provided by Planned Parenthood. Over the course of a lifetime, one in four American women will have visited a clinic.

Looking at these numbers, it is apparent that this service is in demand. Why reduce funding for a program used by so many?

Finally, Planned Parenthood educates patients who walk through their doors.

Patients are instructed that abstinence is the only foolproof protection against unwanted pregnancy and STDs, but those who choose to be sexually active are taught how to adequately protect themselves.

They are shown the right way to use condoms, and are given consultations on the proper way to take hormonal contraceptives.

Planned Parenthood fills an obvious need of society and, without adequate funding, will not be able to live up to the high expectations it has cultivated.

One can only hope the policymakers see the need as well.