Federal funding for Planned Parenthood has been under review for months, following the release of a video from the Center for Medical Progress, which led to accusations that the organization was selling fetal tissue for profit.
What the video doesn’t show, however, are the women that Laura Goodhue sees.
Goodhue is the executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. She says that most of the women who seek its services come for preventative screenings for cancer and other health issues, not abortions.
“Many women don’t have an OB-GYN,” she said. “They use Planned Parenthood for primary and preventative healthcare.”
However, those services would be lost if some in Congress get their way.
The video, which critics say is misleading, shows a Planned Parenthood executive discussing prices for fetal tissue, but Planned Parenthood officials have said that the prices were for reimbursements to cover the cost of tissue donations, and not for profit.
Nonetheless the video, which provided the catalyst for the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, has been cited in presidential debates. The bill also passed in the House in September, and lawmakers in various states are scrutinizing the organization.
As a result Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood president, recently announced that the organization would no longer accept fetal tissue donations. But if the organization were to lose its funding, a lot of poor women in Florida would lose as well, Goodhue and other health officials said.
A 2010 study by the Guttmacher Institute , which the Congressional Budget Office is using to measure the effects of cutting Title X funding to Planned Parenthood, found that about 1.1 million women in the state need publicly funded contraceptive care.
Services funded by Title X include contraceptive education, pregnancy diagnosis, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and education, testing and referral services for sexually transmitted diseases.
On top of that, about 16.6 percent of the population in Florida is uninsured, according to 2014 U.S. Census data. Florida ranks third in the U.S. for the highest number of uninsured residents.
Planned Parenthood is a Medicaid provider in several locations. Cuts to federal funding would not only create barriers to contraception, but to life-saving care, Goodhue said.
An annual PAP exam reveals the presence of HPV and can protect women. HPV is the most common STD in the U.S. and it causes cervical cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s deadly if it goes untreated.
“Planned Parenthood provides vital care to thousands of men, women and young persons across the state in medically underserved areas,” Goodhue said.
If anything more, not less, clinic funding is needed, said Elissa Barr, a professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of North Florida.
When clinics lose money, services are reduced or delayed, and the wait time for an appointment increases, she said. Referrals to other clinics may not be enough to make up for the shortfall.
“Location is one issue. We need more clinics throughout the area,” Barr said in reference to northeast Florida.
If people cannot physically get to a clinic or health care center, they’ll often go untreated, which leads to an increased rate of sexually transmitted diseases, she said.
Planned Parenthood or Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics are more likely to offer same-day appointments and have shorter wait times for women to get treatment, according to the Guttmacher Institute study.
“If it’s not easily accessible, they won’t seek out those services. They’re less likely to go elsewhere,” Barr said. “The trickle-down effect is that sexual health in the community gets worse and worse.”
John-Michael Gonzales, a health communications specialist at the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, said there’s a large demand for such services in the region.
Fees for sexual and reproductive health services at the Alachua County Health Department operate on a sliding scale. Patients pay based on their income level, meaning some patient care is free, he said.
“East Gainesville is a very low-income area,” Gonzales said. “We’ve done the best we can to set ourselves up to best serve those people.”
There are two clinics, in addition to the east Gainesville location, in Alachua and southwest Gainesville.
The Alachua County Health Department does not have any regulatory power over nonprofit clinics and other low- or no-cost healthcare centers. However, it teams up with these clinics and centers, including the University of Florida mobile outreach clinic, to supplement its own services.
“We always want to get the word out better. We see thousands of women a year, but we have room for more,” Gonzales said.
Goodhue said that while funding cuts would make it more difficult for Planned Parenthood to provide accessible care, the organization has a diverse revenue stream.
“We’ll be here no matter what,” Goodhue said. “We’ll continue to be here for our patients and provide that critical care.”