If Republicans in Congress, driven by anti-abortion zeal, succeed in their attempt to eliminate about $500 million in annual federal funding, mostly Medicaid reimbursements, for Planned Parenthood, Latinos in Connecticut and across the nation would be adversely affected, say the nonprofit organization’s advocates.
“Defunding Planned Parenthood would have a devastating impact on thousands of women and families in Connecticut, particularly women living in rural areas, low-income women and women of color,” according to Alice Pritchard, executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, an organization devoted to female empowerment.
“Cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, birth control and emergency contraception kits are only a few of the indispensable services provided by Planned Parenthood,” Pritchard said. In addition to CWEALF, Planned Parenthood’s defenders include the Hispanic Federation, a national alliance of Latino community service agencies, including a dozen in Connecticut.
In a letter several Latino leaders sent to Congress in August, José Calderón, Hispanic Federation president, said, “The politically motivated attacks on Planned Parenthood pose a great and unnecessary danger to the Latino community. … Any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood would greatly undermine the steps we have taken to improve access to care.”
Based in New Haven, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, which also serves Rhode Island, has 18 clinics, with the 17 in Connecticut primarily located in areas such as Bridgeport, New Haven, Willimantic, Waterbury, New Britain, Meriden and Hartford that have large concentration of low-income Latinos.
For the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year, PPSNE reported it had 13,000 Latino patients. This amounts to about 19 percent of the organization’s 70,000 patients, 88 percent female, in Connecticut and Rhode island. The Latino total and percentage have steadily increased in recent years with services available to everyone regardless of immigration status, a PPSNE representative said.
Contraceptive aid, 44 percent, and sexually transmitted infection and disease screenings, 26 percent, were its most prevalent services, according to PPSNE. Other activities included reproductive health services and cancer screening as well as abortions, listed at 6 percent.
The current funding fight in Congress, fueled by allegations about the sale of fetal tissues, essentially centers on an attempt to deprive Planned Parenthood of federal funding, which legally cannot be used for abortions, claiming this financial support allows Planned Parenthood to shift resources from other services to cover the controversial pregnancy terminations.
About 41 percent of the $1.2 billion in revenue received by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the national organization, comes from government health service grants and reimbursements, according to its 2014 annual report.
Its Southern New England affiliate states its $30 million in revenue for 2014-2015 as including 16.9 percent from government grants and 52.3 percent from third-party insurers.
PPSNE said it performed 10,252 abortions in Connecticut and Rhode Island, a number which has declined by nearly 50 percent since the peak period which was from 1980 to 1994.
One recent factor, according to Judy Tabor, PPSNE chief executive officer, is that under the Affordable Care Act more women have access to contraception without a copay.
Nationally, Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions annually and this represents 3 percent of its total services, a figure anti-abortion groups argue is understated and misleading.
Planned Parenthood’s supporters suggest that the Republican-driven effort to defund the nonprofit organization has wider implications.
Kafi Rouse, PPSNE’s director of public relations and marketing, saw the issue as more insidious. In a press release , regarding Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to October 15), Rouse stated, “Defunding Planned Parenthood is a way to continue to keep the Latino and Hispanic communities – emerging political and social powers – without the access to care that would ensure a healthy and vibrant generation to come.”
PPSNE points to several health issues of particular concern to Hispanics based on national studies. These include:
* Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancers than women of any other racial or ethnic group.
* Approximately 53 percent of Latinas pregnancies were unintended.
* Latinos contract HIV at more than three times the rate of the white population
* Approximately 16 percent of Latinas have not visited a physician in the last two years and one quarter do not have a regular health care provider.
Planned Parenthood has developed an education initiative aimed at teenagers and the Latino Outreach Initiative aimed at reducing the high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.
The location of PPSNE’s clinics reflects a desire to keep patients travel to a minimum, said Joshua Morgan, public relations and marking associate. The clinics have bilingual staff and their hours range from being open seven days a week in Bridgeport to six hours per week in New Britain.