New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes has fiercely defended the abortion provider Planned Parenthood ever since the undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress revealing disturbing scenes of organization staffers discussing selling the organs of aborted babies.
Calmes reported from New Orleans Wednesday to help Planned Parenthood propagate its latest defense -- that poor women would somehow be deprived of vital medical procedures in Louisiana if the state's two (?) Planned Parenthood clinics were deprived of federal funding, under the histrionic headline "Fears About Push to Cut Planned Parenthood – In Louisiana, Medical Workers Say Many Patients Have No Other Options."
Dr. Stephanie Taylor recently showed off the private community health center here, newly built on the site of a women’s clinic wrecked by Hurricane Katrina a decade ago, pointing out the colorful furnishings, germ-resistant flooring and, in the sunny lobby, a welcoming Tree of Life mural. So it was a tad incongruous when she added, “We’re at ground zero for sexually transmitted infections.”
Dr. Taylor’s point was twofold: Demand for tests and treatment is great, not just in this neighborhood beyond the French Quarter, but all over Louisiana. And clinics like this CrescentCare Health and Wellness Center need all the allies they can get -- including the state’s two Planned Parenthood clinics, one here and one in Baton Rouge, whose public funds are now threatened by Republicans in the state capital and in Congress.
The political dispute embroiling Planned Parenthood here and nationwide is over abortion, though public funds are not permitted by federal law to be used for abortion, except in cases involving rape, incest or a pregnancy that threatens the mother’s life. Neither clinic in this state -- like nearly half of all Planned Parenthood centers -- performs abortions. What the Louisiana Planned Parenthood clinics did do last year was administer nearly 20,000 tests for sexually transmitted infections, as well as provide gynecological exams, contraceptive care, cancer screenings and other wellness services for nearly 10,000 mostly low-income patients.
More on that soothing "neither clinic...performs abortions" language later.
With the calls to stop funding for Planned Parenthood, a visit to New Orleans and Baton Rouge suggests that it would not be as easy to do without the nonprofit centers as some Republicans and their anti-abortion allies say. Other states would face similar problems.
Louisiana is among a number of states counted as medically underserved: It has a large poor and unhealthy population, with high rates of unintended pregnancies, a shortage of health professionals and too few who will accept Medicaid, as Planned Parenthood does.
Remember that we're talking about a grand total of two clinics in a medium-sized U.S. state with dozens of other health-care options (Calmes eventually quoted a Republican pointing that disparity out).
Congress’s investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, reported in 2012 that four out of five Planned Parenthood patients nationally had incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and two-thirds of states reported difficulties ensuring enough health providers for Medicaid patients, especially in obstetrics and gynecology.
Also, since most funds that Planned Parenthood receives from taxpayers are reimbursements for tending to Medicaid beneficiaries, experts in health policy say lawmakers cannot simply take money from the organization and redirect it to other facilities.
Republicans in Congress are trying again to cut funds to Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit of 665 affiliates that gets about 40 percent of its $1.3 billion annual budget from public funds, mostly from Medicaid. But this time, the Republicans are harnessing opposition to the organization that has been stirred this summer by an anti-abortion group’s surreptitiously recorded videos accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from selling fetal parts. The organization denies that, saying a few affiliates donate tissue for research with patients’ consent and charge nominal fees to cover costs.
In a shift of tactics, Republicans in the Senate are calling to take the roughly $500 million in federal funds from Planned Parenthood and give it to other providers that treat women -- a move to counter Democrats’ charges of a Republican “war on women.”
Calmes buried some relevant local news in the last two paragraphs:
Despite threats to a big share of its funding, Planned Parenthood is continuing construction on a larger center in New Orleans to replace the existing clinic.
“We’re planning to be able to double the amount of patients that we’re able to see to meet the need,” said Raegan Carter, a senior official for Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast. For the first time in 31 years, it will also offer abortions.
Not without controversy, though. A small fire at the site on Aug. 1 is under investigation by local and federal officials. And on the adjacent lot, a sign with a photograph of a baby reads, “Planned Parenthood Sells Abortion ... and They Plan to Sell More Here.”