Letter on ‘Planned Parenthood’ to our congressman

Dear Congressman Zeldin:

On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Thursday that Congress that his proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act would also contain a provision that would defund Planned Parenthood — as soon as possible. While there are many horrific ramifications to such an act, one of the biggest would be stripping millions of women of their current methods of contraception and other crucial medical care.

About half of Planned Parenthood’s patientsmore than a million people — are on Medicaid. Speaker Ryan’s plan would immediately prevent this group of individuals from relying on their current reproductive health center. That would leave hundreds of thousands of women, including many in Suffolk County (whom you are sworn to represent), abruptly cut off from contraception access. There are five Planned Parenthood centers in Suffolk County alone. Many of the patients using these facilities will not be able to find another provider on such short notice.

For many, there will be no way to restore that access, as half of Planned Parenthood clinics are in medically underserved communities, meaning that there are few, if any, alternatives for the women who rely upon Planned Parenthood for crucial medical services (not just abortion, which is always forgotten in this discourse). In some states, Republicans have disingenuously diminished the impact of cuts to Planned Parenthood by presenting supposed lists of alternative “healthcare” providers available to women on Medicaid. To put it bluntly, these lists of “alternatives” are constructed of lies. The majority of the clinics on these lists do not even have a gynecologist on staff. Most egregiously, in Florida for example, the list of “alternatives” to Planned Parenthood included dentists, optometrists and school nurses.

Even if women could find community clinics that offer gynecological care, often that care is not as good as the care available from Planned Parenthood, which offers more qualified staffs and more flexible scheduling.  Generally speaking, these “alternative” clinics are less equipped to handle not only contraception needs, but other medical services provided by Planned Parenthood. For example, Planned Parenthood facilities often have a large stockpile of contraceptive medication, so women can fill their prescriptions on-site — a service more general health clinics typically cannot provide.

In sum, for Congress to take the unprecedented step to strip funds from Planned Parenthood would cruelly impact women and the poor. All this based upon false news reporting brandished by former Representative Michelle Bachman and most recently by Carly Fiorina. It is time to understand your obligation to your constituents and stand up on their behalf and object to any effort to cripple Planned Parenthood.

Sincerely,  Bruce A. Colbath

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About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College
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