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U.S. House Voting to Defund Planned Parenthood

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Rep. Mike Pence doesn't want you to have these.
As soon as today or tomorrow, members of the U.S. House of Representatives could approve bills to strip Planned Parenthood and other reproductive care centers of federal funding. Such a move would leave millions of low-income women nationwide without access to free or low-cost reproductive health care, cancer screenings and contraception.

A bill currently awaiting a vote, HR 217, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) and 165 cosponsors, would make Planned Parenthood ineligible for federal funds set aside by Title X. (Missouri legislators who've signed on as co-sponsors include Blaine Luetkemeyer, Billy Long, Vicky Hartzler and Todd Akin.) Another bill would strip all funding from Title X, meaning that any group that uses Title X funds would be broke.

"[Title X] is a program that provides preventative services to over 6 million women each year in this country," says Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. "Planned Parenthood centers are a huge part of the Title X family. If we were defunded, millions of women would lose access to free preventative services."

Title X, the family planning funding law, was signed into law in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. Congress sets aside funding for it every year as part of the Department of Health and Human Services budget. The money -- $327 million last year -- goes to clinics and health care centers around the country that provide subsidized contraception and services like Pap tests and annual gynecological exams, as well as STD testing and treatment.

In the St. Louis area, Planned Parenthood operates two Title X centers that serve nearly 9,000 patients a year. Half of those patients qualify for free care based on their incomes. Title X dollars support contraceptive care and screenings for cancer and STDs; Gianino says that 60 percent of women who use Title X centers say that's their only health-care provider.

Pence's bill, which he's calling "Defund Planned Parenthood Now," holds that any entity that provides abortions cannot receive Title X grants. But exactly zero dollars of Title X money have ever gone to pay for abortion -- that's written into the law.

"It's really a pretty inane justification," Gianino says. Yes, she acknowledges, Planned Parenthood does indeed provide abortions. But, she notes, "women who receive abortions pay for them out of their own pockets. Not one penny of Title X money goes to abortions." She says that 97 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is preventative care. As well, she says that nationwide, Title X centers prevent more than 600,000 pregnancies each year.

If Planned Parenthood and other Title X centers lose their federal financing, she says, "we will have more disease, we will have more unintended pregnancy, more teen pregnancy, and more abortions. All of these things are linked."

Gianino expects the bills will pass in the House, with a Senate vote coming in the beginning of March.

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