Tribpedia: Planned Parenthood

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), commonly known as Planned Parenthood, is the U.S. branch  — and founding member — of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Planned Parenthood is organized into 79 affiliates that operate nearly 800 clinics in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Its president is Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

Planned Parenthood’s core mission is to provide sexual and reproductive health care services: contraception, education on and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy testing and counseling. It also provides various cancer screenings, along with other services, the most controversial of those being abortions. In 2011, Planned Parenthood provided over 11 million services to nearly 3 million people nationwide. 3% — about 300,000 — of those were for abortions.

Through various mechanisms that vary by state, the federal government provides funding to Planned Parenthood to assist low-income women with contraception and other services at its clinics. 78 percent of the national organization and 16 percent of the affiliates’ funding comes from private donations. By law, no taxpayer dollars may be used to fund abortions — they must be kept strictly separate. Critics say such separation of funding is impossible. Planned Parenthood maintains all its abortion services are funded only by fees and private donations.

In 2011, the Texas legislature passed a series of bills, signed by Gov. Rick Perry, asserting a heightened role for for the state in women’s reproductive issues. Among these was the general appropriations bill HB-1, which slashed money for family planning services in general — and Planned Parenthood in particular.

Throughout its history, Planned Parenthood has often been at the center of controversy. Recent events in Texas have put the organization — and the state — in the national spotlight.

On February 1, 2012, Planned Parenthood announced that its longtime partner, Irving, Texas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure (the largest breast cancer organization in the U.S.), had withdrawn funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen said it was obliged to take that action under its bylaws, which state it cannot fund any organization under congressional investigation. Critics said both the investigation in question and Komen’s decision were highly politicized, brought on by anti-abortion advocates willing to put services for women at risk to destroy Planned Parenthood. A furious backlash ensued, with denunciations from within and without the organization, followed by several high-profile resignations, including Komen policy chief and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel, an outspoken opponent of abortion. Three days after its controversial announcement, Komen restored funding to Planned Parenthood, but it was clear the organization was damaged by the controversy, with participation in Komen's Race for the Cure events — a principle source of revenue — off sharply. On August 8, 2012, shifts in the top leadership continued, with CEO and founder Nancy Brinker stepping down from the highest post and president Liz Thompson resigning, effective in September, according to a Komen press release. Two board members, Brenda Lauderback and Linda Law, also stepped down. The fierce backlash against Komen resulted in a surge in donations to Planned Parenthood, and on August 20, 2012, the organization announced it would use that money to provide enhanced breast cancer screening services to 40,000 women in 5 Texas communities. 

Meanwhile, the laws passed in the 2011 session are showing their full effect: Planned Parenthood clinics have lost so much state funding that some clinics — a dozen at latest count — have been forced to shut their doors. Additionally, the abortion sonogram measure has proved a difficult and complicating factor for some women and their doctors.

The future of Planned Parenthood in Texas — and what happens to the low-income women across the state who rely on its services — is anything but clear. The state has said it would rather turn down federal funding than allow those dollars to go to Planned Parenthood clinics. The Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP), administered by Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), offers one example of the impasse: Designed to provide low-income women in Texas with contraception, family planning services, and breast and cervical cancer screenings, the WHP has been widely praised for saving the state millions of dollars. 90% of its funding comes from the federal government, the balance from the state. While Planned Parenthood clinics accounted for just 2% of of all facilities receiving WHP dollars, in 2010 they accounted for 46% of the services provided.

In February, 2012, HHSC Commissioner Tom Suehs signed a rule banning "abortion affiliates" and, by extension, Planned Parenthood  from participating in the Women's Health Program.

In March, the Federal government countered that long-standing statute forbids it from giving Texas money if it’s going to restrict choice of approved providers to its clients, and therefore could not continue funding the program.

Texas countered that the choice of which providers it chooses to authorize is a matter for the state to decide, and so, on March 15, 2012, Cindy Man, the director of the Federal Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, sent a letter to the state of Texas (and the media) saying they have no choice but to discontinue the program.

Perry has said the state will replace those dollars to keep some 130,000 low-income women from losing their care, but where that money will come from remains an open question. Open, too, is the question of whether other clinics that do have the state’s approval will be able to meet the needs of all those women.

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