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Planned Parenthood: Fight for Women’s Health Funding Far From Over

April 15, 2011

PHOENIX – Efforts to strip family planning and low-income healthcare funding from Planned Parenthood ultimately failed in negotiations over this year's federal budget. However, the battle isn't over by a long shot, says Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona. He says the debate is being complicated by the spread of misinformation, such as Arizona Senator Jon Kyl's assertion that abortions are "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." The truth is exactly the opposite, counters Howard.

"Our primary focus is on annual gynecological exams, birth control, pap smears, breast exams, testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted infections. And that is 90 percent, literally, of what we do."

Howard says the funding issue for Planned Parenthood will be raised again in a standalone bill in Congress, and will likely become a bargaining chip in the coming votes to raise the federal debt limit and adopt a budget for 2012.

Conservatives who want to de-fund Planned Parenthood argue they don't want any federal dollars going to an organization that performs abortions. But Howard insists no federal monies are used for that purpose.

"By federal law and by state law, no public funds may be used to pay for abortion services. This has been the law for going on four decades."

Rather, he says most of what Planned Parenthood does involves prevention – and cutting those services now will increase costs for everyone later, he adds.

"We have to remember that if we don't provide pap smears now, for example, we will end up with women with cervical cancer later. And the treatment of that will be vastly more expensive to our health care system."

Gov. Brewer signed a bill this week denying a "working poor" state income tax credit for donations to Planned Parenthood, even though most of its patients have incomes below the federal poverty level. Howard says without its services, many of those patients will have nowhere else to go because Community Health Centers are being cut at the federal level, and the state is dropping up to a quarter-million people from its Medicaid program, AHCCCS (Access).

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ