If the Senate blocks funds, many will face a dearth of affordable choices for women’s health care.

What would a world without Planned Parenthood look like?

Planned Parenthood provides critical care to millions of people across the country. Right here in Maine, our health centers treat more than 10,000 patients a year, and for many of them we are their only access to health care. What will happen if they are denied access to their provider?

Unfortunately, we may soon find out.

The Senate will vote next week to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” and the bill will likely include a provision blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving reimbursements from Medicaid, sometimes called “defunding” Planned Parenthood.

The effects would be significant. In Maine, 25 percent of our patients are insured through Medicaid, and for many of our patients, we are their only access to health care. Without Planned Parenthood, they would have nowhere else to go.

We see patients like Leah, a survivor of sexual assault. Leah was unable to tell her parents, her primary care doctor, or her gynecologist what happened.

She wrote, “the health care providers who helped me at Planned Parenthood were my only line of defense against what had happened to my body … they provided me with the medication I needed, along with the emotional support I needed to handle this trauma. If I hadn’t been able to go to Planned Parenthood for help I don’t know where I would have gone.”

Samantha told us, “It is sad that Planned Parenthood is under [attack], because I personally don’t know what I would do without the convenient and affordable care they have to offer.”

And Diana Turner, a cancer survivor, explained, “I was just 26 when the first [pap test] result was abnormal. After that, I went back every six months, then every three months, as Planned Parenthood and I tracked the approach of cervical cancer.”

This early detection and treatment saved her life.

Though the stories vary, our patients share one thing in common: They don’t come to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement.

They come to us for compassionate, affordable, high-quality health care. Denying patients access to their trusted healthcare providers for political reasons is simply wrong.

Yet efforts to block patient access to Planned Parenthood continue. Some opponents of Planned Parenthood have suggested our patients simply go to another provider, like a community health center or Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).

Public health experts have resoundingly dismissed this notion for several reasons.

First, these health centers simply don’t have the capacity to treat all of our patients. A recent analysis by the Guttmacher Institute determined that without Planned Parenthood, FQHCs in Maine would have to at least double their contraceptive caseloads – and that’s just for our birth control patients.

Furthermore, Planned Parenthood health centers offer a full range of contraceptive methods – from birth control pills and patches to IUDs and implants. Many FQHCs do not.

We also offer same-day and next-day appointments. Across the country, more than 80 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers offer same-day IUD insertion. Only one in four FQHCs do.

And all of our health centers in Maine have extended hours to accommodate patients who have difficulty taking time off from work or family. Little more than half of FQHCs have extended hours.

In short, on key indicators, Planned Parenthood health centers do better than FQHCs. Is it any surprise that in Maine our four health centers provide contraception to more women than the 65 FQHCS combined?

FQHCs are not the answer. Quite simply, Planned Parenthood is irreplaceable.

Our elected leaders must reject any attempt to cut off millions of people from Planned Parenthood and the lifesaving preventive care we provide.

Last month, the U.S. House failed to do so. Instead, a majority chose to sacrifice women’s health for political gain by repealing the Affordable Care Act and preventing Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood.

The U.S. Senate will vote at the end of the month. We are counting on them to do the right thing so that Planned Parenthood continues to be available to patients like Leah, Samantha, Diana – and millions more.


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