Source: North Jersey.com
It’s business as usual these days at the Planned Parenthood center in Paterson, but if Republicans in Congress succeed in defunding the organization, big change may be coming.
On a recent afternoon, a 22-year-old woman stopped by to pick up birth-control pills. Another, age 20, dropped in to find out about Depo-Provera, the birth-control injection that lasts three months, and other options. Another arrived with her boyfriend, for reasons she did not want to discuss with a reporter.
Thirty patients a day, five days a week, visit the center. They come for family-planning information and supplies; tests for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; screenings for cervical cancer; and, in some cases, medication that induces an abortion, or a referral to a center that performs one.
The Paterson center’s quiet orderliness stands in contrast to the heated rhetoric in Washington about Planned Parenthood. The organization’s foes, fighting abortion with the passion that 19th century abolitionists fought slavery, are pushing to end all federal funding for the century-old provider of reproductive health services. And with Republicans in power in the White House and Congress, they see this as their moment.
Services at about 650 Planned Parenthood centers, including 26 in New Jersey, will be at risk if Congress follows through on proposals to “defund Planned Parenthood” and slash federal family-planning funding. The proposals include ending Medicaid reimbursement for any services patients receive at Planned Parenthood sites. Private insurance coverage for abortions also is at risk.
Congress took the first step when it voted to use the budgeting process, which requires only a simple majority, in future efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Included in that resolution was a provision to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood. President Donald Trump reinstated a ban on funds for organizations that promote abortion abroad, such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation. And last month, Congress approved a resolution that would allow states to withhold funds from abortion providers.
In addition, the replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act being circulated by House Speaker Paul Ryan would deny federal tax credits to any insurance plan that includes coverage of abortion, a provision likely to severely curtail private abortion coverage.
Federal dollars account for about half of Planned Parenthood’s revenues in New Jersey – largely through Medicaid coverage. Six out of 10 patients receive care through Medicaid or federal Title X family-planning grants. If they can’t visit the centers, the consequences would be dramatic.
“I’m really worried about them taking something like this away,” said Inselis De la Rosa of Paterson, a 22-year-old student who has been using the Paterson center for two years. “To be honest, I don’t know where I would go, if it wasn’t here.” Her contraceptive supplies are free through her Medicaid coverage.
The Paterson center treats about 3,100 patients a year, mostly teenagers and college students with very low incomes, said Sylvia Bryant, its nurse manager. Losing access to such care would be “tragic” for them, she said. Three-quarters of Planned Parenthood’s New Jersey patients have incomes lower than 1½ times the federal poverty level, or $17,820. That makes it difficult to travel far for an appointment, and it is hard to build trust with a new provider for sexual and reproductive care.
Already, education programs have been scrapped and staff hours reduced, because of earlier state funding cuts, said Roslyn Rogers Collins, the head of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey. “We’re starting to do contingency planning.”