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Planned Parenthood funding cuts may hurt those who need help the most

We live in interesting times in so many regards, but with Valentine's Day drawing near, let's talk about sex.

Last Sunday, as always, I clipped coupons. I am efficient at this task, but had to pause at the offer of a free greeting card if you buy K-Y Brand Couples Lubricants Kissable Sensations. Below it was a $2 coupon for Efferdent. The other side of the page had Lysol and Selsun Blue discounts.

At least when it comes to coupons, apparently sex ranks right up there with dentures, dandruff and pesky household odors.

We are, however, more conflicted about what can happen once the personal lubrication issue is resolved.

Some Congress members want to stop sending public funds to Planned Parenthood, since it provides abortions. But Congress already forbids spending tax dollars on abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother's life is in danger. So what this move really would do is cut funding for things like birth control, which is why most people go to Planned Parenthood.

The group is under another cloud after a recent sting, orchestrated by an antiabortion group, produced video that showed a man posing as a pimp seeking medical advice for his underage prostitutes from a Planned Parenthood clinic in New Jersey. Planned Parenthood headquarters called in the FBI, fired the clinic manager in the video and took other corrective actions, but reverberations from the episode continue.

Now, I'm against prostitution, underage or not. But I do wonder what would be achieved by cutting contraceptive and other health care funding to Planned Parenthood. So I called our local affiliate to get some numbers.

Last year, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida had more than 76,000 patient visits at its seven centers in 15 counties. It prescribed just about that many packets of birth control pills and other devices (not counting condoms, which it hands out for free). It also did nearly 13,000 tests for sexually transmitted diseases, 5,700 cervical cancer screenings — and 162 vasectomies.

Plus, about 4,800 abortions, either by surgery or pill.

Without the low-cost health services Planned Parenthood provides, some people think we'd have many more abortions. The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproduction research group, reported in 2009 that for every $1 spent on publicly funded contraception, taxpayers save $4 by preventing nearly 2 million pregnancies and 810,000 abortions.

More than half of the local affiliate's patients are ages 20 to 29, and often do not have health insurance or are underinsured. Demand for services has grown during the recession — visits to clinics rose 13 percent last year.

By the way, the local affiliate receives only a small amount of federal grant funds for vasectomies, STD screening and cancer screenings for women over 40, though other affiliates across the country rely more heavily on tax dollars.

Attacking Planned Parenthood might make for interesting politics, but don't expect it to do much to meet the health care needs of young people who have few options as it is.

Planned Parenthood funding cuts may hurt those who need help the most 02/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 3:30am]
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