Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District Rep. Martha McSally continues to rebuff attempts to explain why she voted to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that accounted for almost 60,000 patient visits in Arizona, many within her district.
There are two Planned Parenthood clinics in Southern Arizona – both sit in McSally’s district. Since the September vote, she has given several interviews in which she said she did not want a government shutdown over the funding but never explained why she wanted to eliminate it in the first place.
In a statement, she stated that she wanted funds to go to clinics that don’t provide abortion services. Only one of the clinics in her district offers those services.
Combined, the 10 Planned Parenthood locations across Arizona served 59,012 patient visits between July 2013 and June 2014, according to Planned Parenthood Arizona’s annual report.
Planned Parenthood Arizona received $1,480,529 in government funding. Nationwide, Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million in government funding in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Government funding cannot and does not support abortion visits.
According to Democrats Victoria Steele and Matt Heinz, who are competing to challenge McSally in the upcoming election, McSally’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood does not serve her 2nd District constituents.
“This GOP agenda is extreme and it’s anti-woman and it must not go unchallenged,” Steele said. “She [McSally] should be focusing on things that matter most to the people who live in the 2nd District.”
Both Steele and Heinz claim they would have voted in support of Planned Parenthood. On Sept. 30, the Arizona Democratic Party also released a statement in support of women’s health.
“The Arizona Democratic Party stands unequivocally in support of Planned Parenthood … The distortion of Planned Parenthood’s work by those with political agendas is abhorrent. Furthermore, using these distortions as an excuse to shut down the federal government is irresponsible and serves as a clear sign of dysfunction within the Republican Party” read the statement by Sheila Healy, Arizona Democratic Party executive director.
Though McSally voted to strip Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, she does not believe it is worth a government shutdown, according to recent interviews.
“Martha McSally can’t have it both ways,” Heinz said. “Her party leadership has made the defunding of Planned Parenthood its top priority and she will have to choose which is more important – slavish devotion to her party bosses or the health and welfare of Southern Arizona women.”
“The public deserves to know exactly what Planned Parenthood is all about as they are the ones driving the entire abortion industry, and this video is going to open a lot of eyes,” said Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham. “These are horrendous practices which not only take the life of an innocent child, but Planned Parenthood now admits it has other nefarious motives driving an entire new sector of their horrific business.”
Despite claims made by various sources stating that the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress were fraudulent, the Arizona GOP continues to support a statement it released over three months ago, according to Republican Party Spokesman Tim Sifert.
Abortion makes up 3 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. Sifert stated that 97 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides do not matter, in the view of the party, because the abortion services justify defunding the organization.
McSally’s vote, along with the votes of Republican representatives across the state, may impact the quality of health care that women – especially underserved, low-income women – in the state of Arizona will have access to.
Nationally, 78 percent of Planned Parenthood patients live “at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.” The vote to defund Planned Parenthood is a vote that denies quality medical care to poor women across the country.
Arizona Sonora News (ASN) sent an email to Nancy Heiser, McSally’s community engagement coordinator, on Sept. 30. Contacted again Oct. 2, Heiser referred the message to Patrick Ptak, communications director. He did not respond.
On Oct. 5 ASN called McSally’s Washington D.C. office and left a voicemail. Ptak responded the next day. When a reporter returned his call the following day to arrange an interview time, Ptak did not respond again. When reached on Oct. 9, he denied the request, saying McSally would only accept e-mail questions.
ASN refused to submit questions because of no opportunity for a conversational exchange.
In recent interviews, McSally has expressed her desire to redirect federal funding to health centers located in underserved areas.
According to Annet Ruiter, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood, the issue with diverting Planned Parenthood funds to other health centers is an issue of choice.
“Women and families need to be able to choose where they get their healthcare. It’s not up to the government to decide where women will go for health care,” Ruiter said. “By trying to defund us, they’re taking that choice away from them and saying ‘you cannot decide who you want to go to, we’ll make that decision for you.”
In addition, Ruiter questions whether health centers will have enough resources to serve all patients.
“Federally qualified health centers can’t pick up all of this demand; there’s already a shortage of health care providers. I think it’s going to be a struggle,” Ruiter said.
Kassandra Manriquez is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.