What is Planned Parenthood and why is it important?
Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that provides sexual health care in the United States and globally. Of the people who use its services, 79% have low incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. Women of color, low-income women, and women living in rural areas often have nowhere else to turn. Furthermore, the LGBTQ community disproportionately relies on its services to access birth control, educational resources, and preventive health services. Planned Parenthood is one of the country’s largest providers of healthcare to transgender people. It is often the only culturally-competent center available, especially in more conservative areas of the country. In other words, it is the only provider where transgender and gender nonconforming individuals can receive care and feel safe disclosing their gender identity.
Breakdown of Planned Parenthood Services
Did You Know...
85% of Planned Parenthood healthcare patients in the US are age 20 and older
An estimated 1 in 5 women in the US has visited a Planned Parenthood health center at least once in her life
Provides more than 295,000 Pap tests and more than 320,000 breast exams in a single year, critical services in detecting cancer
Provides more than 4.2 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections in a single year
Provides education programs and outreach to 1.5 million people in a single year
Has 10 million activists, supporters, and donors working for women’s health and safety
Planned Parenthood's Decline in Clinics
How Does Federal Funding Work at Planned Parenthood?
Most of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding comes from
Medicaid reimbursements for preventive care. In other words,
Medicaid reimburses Planned Parenthood’s doctors and
nurses for the preventive medical services they provide. The
remainder of the funding comes from Title X, the nation’s
family planning program. Planned Parenthood serves 1.5
million of Title X’s over 4 million patients each year. It is
important to note that the government saves $7 in
Medicaid-related costs for every dollar invested in publicly
funded family planning programs like Title X. The
Congressional Budget Office projects that barring Planned
Parenthood health centers from being reimbursed through
Medicaid would result in a net cost of $130 million to taxpayers
over 10 years.
Contrary to what many believe, there is no keep-Planned
Parenthood running-part of the federal budget. When politicians say they want to “defund” Planned Parenthood, they essentially mean that they are going to block patients who rely on public health care programs from getting their care at Planned Parenthood centers. This is because at least 60% of Planned Parenthood patients rely on public health programs like Medicaid and Title X for their preventive and primary care.
What is the relationship between Planned Parenthood and HIV?
Planned Parenthood offers HIV testing and counseling. It has over 700 clinics in the country, and in 2015, it provided about 704,000 tests. It aims to decrease the stigma associated with the disease by stressing that getting tested is a “normal part of healthcare” and that HIV is a chronic disease continuum that is really no different than any other chronic disease except that it is obtained primarily through either needle sharing or through sexual contact with the exchange of bodily fluids.
“Planned Parenthood can diagnose a person with HIV and refer them for treatment elsewhere. Our referrals are to specialists that will provide treatment to prevent infection-- it’s called part of the treatment cascade and the HIV continuum of care” … “and the idea is to reduce the viral load of the individual down as low as possible and that will not only keep that person's health, the person who was infected healthy, but it will also protect the HIV infected person’s partners.”
- Planned Parenthood Foundation of America (PPFA)’s Vice President of External Medical Affairs, Dr. Vanessa Cullins
In 2015, Indiana fought the worst HIV outbreak in its history. By the end of March, more than 190 people in the small county of Scott, the epicenter of the outbreak, had been tested positive. The state had been without a testing facility since 2013, and the epidemic was largely caused by rampant use of intravenous drugs. The previous sole sterile needle provider, Planned Parenthood, had shuttered due to public health spending cuts. It had been under attack for years as a part of a larger battle in the struggle over abortion rights. Five of Planned Parenthood’s smaller clinics in the state were unable to keep up with the growing technology costs that were necessary to remain competitive as a medical provider, and all of them were forced to close. Mike Pence, who was governor at the time, declared a public health emergency and authorized short-term needle exchange program. What this crisis demonstrated was that often Planned Parenthood is the only testing facility available, and without it, people have no way of knowing what is wrong with their own bodies.
At the start of 2016, the Texas Department of State Health services announced that it would cut off about $600,000 in funding for HIV prevention services provided by Planned Parenthood. The state then ended its 28 year HIV-prevention contract with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which had used this money since 1988 to fund more than 138,000 HIV tests, HIV and STI counseling and education programs, and prevention services such as condom distribution in five counties in the Houston area. Since this contract ended, none of the three counties that were supposed to take over the program have conducted a single HIV test. The deliberate neglect of HIV-prevention services is a testament to the importance of Planned Parenthood’s public health programs.
Earlier this year, Gilead Sciences, a research based biopharmaceutical company, awarded a $900,000 grant to support and expand efforts of HIV-prevention and education, including the integration of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), the medical practice of prescribing antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV infection, at Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers across the country over the next 18 months. Disparities in HIV rates remain a serious issue for too many people and communities. Rates of new HIV cases along with barriers to treatment and healthcare access continue to more greatly impact marginalized communities. With this grant, Planned Parenthood can implement life-saving awareness and care not otherwise funded at this scale. The majority of the grant will directly support the efforts of Planned Parenthood affiliates to develop training and resources aimed at delivering a comprehensive program of HIV prevention, including PrEP, along with other methods. The grant work will be carried out in partnership with the Black AIDS Institute, a national HIV and AIDS organization, with the mission of stopping epidemics in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals.
Position on Privacy Rights
Planned Parenthood has declared that it is a person’s right not to tell a sexual partner whether they are HIV-positive. It described its stance in a booklet for the youth entitled “Healthy, Happy, and Hot”: “Young people living with HIV have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose their HIV status...sharing your HIV status is called disclosure. Your decision about whether to disclose may change with different people and situations.”
Planned Parenthood considers it a violation of HIV-positive people’s rights that they can be charged with a crime in 35 states if they do not divulge their status: “Some countries have laws that say people living with HIV must tell their sexual partners about their status before having sex, even if they use condoms or only engage in sexual activity with a low risk of giving HIV to someone else- these laws violate the rights of people living with HIV by forcing them to disclose or face the possibility of criminal charges.”
The organization argues that there are a lot of people who do not mind whether their partners have HIV because it is their right to experience sexual pleasure. In addition, there are many reasons that people do not share their HIV status. They may not want their peers to know that they are living with the disease due to the stigma associated with it. Furthermore, those in long term relationships who find out that they are living with HIV sometimes fear that their partner will react violently or end the relationship.
All graphics by Jaclyn Saik