Under the Trump administration, the future of Planned Parenthood—and the Arizona women who rely on it for healthcare—looks murkier than ever.
Last week, President Donald Trump signed legislation allowing states to withhold Title X family planning funding from abortion providers. The measure passed through Congress last month with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.
Now it is up to the Arizona legislature to decide whether to strip Title X funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
This federal policy change will not have an immediate impact on Arizona, because the state’s Title X funds are distributed by the Arizona Family Health Partnership, a nonprofit which receives money directly from the federal government. But it could open the door for the legislators to try to take control of the funding and direct it away from Planned Parenthood.
Michael Braun, Executive Director for Arizona Legislative Council, said there are no current plans to introduce legislation to redirect Title X funding away from Planned Parenthood clinics in the current legislative session, and it is too early to tell whether it will be on the docket next session.
Arizona has tried several times in recent years to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood. Last month Gov. Doug Ducey signed three laws which ban research on aborted fetuses, restrict state employee donations to Planned Parenthood, and regulate medication abortions.
Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake both voted in support of giving states Title X funding discretion, as did Rep. Martha McSally.
Title X funding provides a safety net for patients who do not have insurance or do not wish to use it due to privacy reasons. It pays for cancer screenings, prenatal care, STI testing, and well-woman exams but does not fund abortion. In Arizona, approximately 36,000 people benefit from the Title X program every year. Most are rural, low-income women.
Arizona Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Tayler Tucker said donations have increased since the election, but the blow from losing its Title X funding could lead to Planned Parenthoods shutting down in Arizona. WHAT PERCENTAGE OF PP FUNDING RELIES ON FEDERAL
Planned Parenthood receives approximately $550 million each year in federal funding, which is 43% of its overall revenue. These funds are allocated through Medicaid reimbursements and public family planning programs like Title X.
Tucker said the impact of Planned Parenthood closing its doors is hard to predict, but foresees it will lead to larger public health crises like STI outbreaks and increases in dangerous, self-induced abortions.
“I think the biggest impact you’re going to see is the fact that most needy, the most vulnerable people are going to be unable to access care.”
She said the state does not have the resources to treat all the patients who would otherwise go to Planned Parenthood in other federally-qualified clinics. “The idea that people can be absorbed by other federally qualified health centers has been disproven and disqualified and discredited countless times now,” she said.
Tucker said that if the federal government were to redirect funding into other health centers it would lead to inefficiencies and long wait times. “Even if they did move to these other federally-qualified health centers it’s going be hard to fill that gap and a lot of people are going to slip through,” she said.
Tucker also noted that most other women’s health clinics do not offer IUDs and implants, which are the most effective forms of birth control.
Elisa Medina, program director of Hands of Hope, a Tucson non-profit that provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and pre-natal care but does not provide abortion referral, said she thinks other clinics would be able to absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients without leaving low-income women in the cold. “I do believe that women would be able to have access to all the healthcare they need without Planned Parenthood,” she said.
Medina noted that there are other clinics in Arizona which provide pre-natal care that she believes would be able to make up for the loss of Planned Parenthood.
“The only thing that Planned Parenthood does that these others don’t do is offer abortion,” she said.
However, a nationwide study conducted by the Guttmatcher Institute found that the average wait time for an initial contraceptive appointment at a federally-qualified health clinic is 2.5 days, which is more than double the wait time at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Additionally, the Guttmacher Institute found that only 57 percent of federally-qualified healthcare clinics have weekend or evening hours, compared to 78 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics.
Community healthcare centers that provide reproductive healthcare may not have the same level of expertise as Planned Parenthood clinics and do not provide as wide an array of services, forcing women to go to separate locations for pre-natal care, STD tests, and screenings.
Planned Parenthood is Tucson’s only abortion-provider, so women seeking an abortion would have to cross county lines if it were to close down.
If all of Arizona’s Planned Parenthoods were to shut down, there would only be four abortion-providers left in the state, each of which are in Maricopa County.
Yet Planned Parenthoods are concentrated in areas that have the most federally qualified health centers. Currently only Maricopa, Pima County, and Coconino have Planned Parenthood clinics, so women who reside in those counties would primarily be impacted if it were to shut down. The rest of the counties do not have access to a Planned Parenthood and also have fewer federally-qualified healthcare centers, forcing them to travel farther to get care.
Tylar Elin Zinn, a public behavioral health employee, said if Planned Parenthood were to close down, it would be difficult for LGBTQ to get adequate sexual and reproductive healthcare. “They’re very culturally competent with LGBTQ people in general, benefitting not just women but also transgender men, so it’s all-around something that can’t be replaced right now.”
Planned Parenthood recently celebrated its 100th year since opening. Tucker said she is optimistic Planned Parenthood will remain open despite the uncertain status of its funding.
“I’m not saying that we won’t face challenges, but I feel pretty confident about our organization,” she said, adding that the 2018 Congressional midterms may cause a shake-up in Planned Parenthood’s favor.