Federal, state cuts could leave Columbia's low-income residents without access to Planned Parenthood services

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Low-income and uninsured Columbia residents may not be able to use Planned Parenthood for health care as a result of proposed changes to federal and state family planning funding.

The funding changes would impact clients’ access to affordable health care more than it would affect Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide care, women’s health care advocates said in a teleconference Thursday.

“Our doors will stay open,” said Dilara Yilmaz, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “We don’t see this impacting the provision of our health services.”

Planned Parenthood Great Plains operates the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility in addition to other centers in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed changes to the requirements for recipients of federal Title X funds on June 1. The final rule will be released after a 60-day comment period ends July 31.

Title X funds are federal grants given to healthcare agencies and clinics, including Planned Parenthood, to subsidize family planning services for low-income and uninsured people. Existing rules prevent these funds going to “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Because Planned Parenthood-affiliated abortion facilities are operated under a separate financial entity, the organization has been able to use Title X money to provide contraceptives, testing for sexually transmitted infections, cancer screenings and other non-abortion services to low-income clients.

The proposed rule states that healthcare providers receiving Title X funds would not be able to “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” In addition, it would require recipients to “maintain clear physical and financial program separation from programs that use abortion as a method of family planning.”

One purpose of the change is to ensure “none of the funds appropriated for Title X may be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning,” according to the health department website.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains receives $700,000 in Title X funds each year, Yilmaz said.

Of the 40,000 Missourians who receive care through Title X programs, about a third are served by Planned Parenthood, said Michelle Trupiano, executive director of the Missouri Family Health Council. Those people may not be able to afford health care at Planned Parenthood without the Title X subsidies, and their other Title X clinic options would not be able to offer abortion as an option in counseling or referrals, she said.

In addition, other health centers may not be able to provide for all the clients not served by Planned Parenthood, she said.

Trupiano said all Title X health providers would have to choose between federal funding and “the health of their patients and giving them medically accurate information.”

The Missouri General Assembly blocked Planned Parenthood from receiving state family planning funds through a budget amendment preventing any abortion facility or any “affiliate or associate thereof” from using state money. Although Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are operated under a different corporation, they would still be considered affiliates under the law.

Two Planned Parenthood locations in Missouri provide abortions — one in St. Louis and one in Columbia. A clinic in Kansas City has provided abortions in the past but has stopped temporarily due to a “provider transition,” said Kristin Metcalf-Wilson, assistant vice president of health services for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

Planned Parenthood advocates agree that the organization will push back against the rule changes once they are finalized.

“Our next step is to fight,” Yilmaz said.

Supervising editors are Mike Jenner and Sky Chadde: news@columbiamissourian.com, 882-7884.

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