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A contentious Farm Bill heads to U.S. House for debate. Also on our rundown: gaps cited in protections for small-business employees and nonprofit volunteers; plus power out for much of Puerto Rico; and some warning signs, that increased youth activism may not correspond to voter turnout.

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Planned Parenthood Holds Town Halls Across AZ to Fight For Funding

Planned Parenthood suppporters listen at a health forum held Tuesday in Tucson. (Planned Parenthood of Arizona)
Planned Parenthood suppporters listen at a health forum held Tuesday in Tucson. (Planned Parenthood of Arizona)
May 31, 2017

PHOENIX - Planned Parenthood is holding a series of health forums across Arizona this week to raise awareness about the attacks on the organization it says are tucked into the American Health Care Act as well as in the state and federal budgets.

The group held a forum in Tucson on Tuesday, and has planned public events today and Friday in Phoenix and Thursday in Sedona.

Tayler Tucker, communications specialist for Planned Parenthood of Arizona, said people deserve straight answers on what would happen if the state loses the organization's 10 community health clinics, which serve 33,000 Arizonans a year.

"Because our senators and our representatives are avoiding public events or dodging those questions when they do have them," she said, "we've stepped into that space to provide a forum for people to hear how this might impact them, and to also raise up patient and the community voice."

Both the Republican health-care plan and the proposed federal budget deny Planned Parenthood access to federal Medicaid dollars, which fund clinics that dispense contraceptives and do cervical and breast-cancer screenings.

Recently, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a state budget that establishes a new state-run family planning program to compete for federal Title X funds with the existing Arizona Family Health Partnership, which uses Planned Parenthood to handle half of its Title X patient visits.

After Texas defunded Planned Parenthood five years ago, Tucker said, the consequences for patients there were alarming.

"Texas now has the highest maternal death rate of any state, and STI rates went up," she said. "Teen pregnancy or unintended pregnancy spiked in that state after they were defunded as well."

In 2015, Arizona state legislators passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood at the state level, but a judge ruled it unenforceable and put it on permanent hold.

The AHCA in its current form is online at congress.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ