Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why I Stand With Planned Parenthood

One of the reasons that I have been relatively lax about blogging these days is that turning on my computer and logging into facebook leads to me to a veritable flood of articles detailing the multitude of ways in which Congressional Republicans have declared war on women. I dislike using extreme language, but there's no other way to describe the concerted effort that these politicians have made to make the lives of women difficult poverty-ridden end in childbirth or illegal abortion complications hell on earth. I am also not generally a fan of escapism, but seriously. I'm past the land of moral outrage and well into the realm of resigned depression at this point, and seeing yet another story that sends the unequivocal message that  I am a uterus with legs isn't exactly ameliorating my state of mind.

Nevertheless, I think it's important to talk about why Planned Parenthood is so important, and how de-funding it is a really, really bad idea.

Planned Parenthood provides healthcare to millions of men and women, many of who are poor or un/underinsured. I am one of them. I was kicked off my father's insurance policy in January, having turned twenty-six in November. Since I am a woman of reproductive age, private, self-pay insurance is absurdly expensive. A decent policy involves spending upwards of $300 a month (slightly less if I electively forgo maternity coverage) before I walk into a doctor's office or hit up a pharmacy. Then, there's the $1000 (at least) deductible. In short, I would have to pay $4600 before the insurance would even kick in-- and I'd still have to pay for an assortment of co-pays and any treatments or tests I'd undergo are, of course, subject to refusal if the moon is full on the third Saturday of February and my doctor didn't sacrifice the goat properly.

Given my income, private insurance simply isn't an option. I instead opted for what I refer to as the "Oh, Shit! My Appendix Just Exploded!" Plan. It's a high-deductible ($7000), low premium ($35/month) insurance that will enable me to not go eighty bajillion dollars in debt should I get hit by a car or contract the ebola virus and have to go to the ER. It works out fairly well, as I don't get sick often and have no chronic health issues that would necessitate regular doctor's visits. The problem, of course, is that policies like mine do not cover any kind of preventative care, and there's no prescription coverage, either. So when it comes to routine care like pap smears, STD testing, physicals, vaccinations, etc., I am, for all intents and purposes, uninsured. The same goes for acquiring birth control. No prescription coverage = I get to pay the full sticker price at the drugstore, and, thanks to America's absurd drug patenting laws, my birth control of choice (the nuva ring) runs about $75 a month. It should go without saying that paying out-of-pocket for doctor's visits and screenings is just as cost-prohibitive as spending $75 a month on birth control.

That's where Planned Parenthood comes in. Since they receive Title X funding from the government, they can provide services, screenings, and birth control at cost, or even below, depending on your income level. That means that people who are uninsured (or have cruddy insurance) can get a pap smear or an HIV test without killing their wallets. The same goes for birth control. Due to its size, Planned Parenthood is able to directly negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical companies, thereby allowing them to sell birth control at or below cost (or give it away for free). The nuva ring, which is $75 a month at Walgreen's, is only $33 a month at Planned Parenthood, which was approximately what I was paying for it back when I had decent insurance. If it weren't for Planned Parenthood, I would be unable to obtain regular reproductive care and I wouldn't be able to use birth control because both would be too expensive. There are a lot of people out there in my position. Millions, in fact.

De-funding Planned Parenthood will inevitably lead to an increase of STDs, cervical cancer, and unintended pregnancy. People who lack access to reproductive care are not going to stop having sex; instead, they'll be more likely to spread diseases (because they will be unable to get tested) and get pregnant (because they no longer have access to the most reliable forms of it and have to resort to less-effective contraceptives like condoms or sponges or, worse yet, nothing at all). Untreated STDs can lead to a host of health problems on down the line, from insanity (syphilis) to cervical cancer (HPV) to infertility (most bacterial nasties can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which, in advanced stages, makes women sterile) to certain, painful death (HIV). Obviously, the more untreated people there are out there, the faster these diseases will spread.

Beyond STDs, unplanned pregnancies cost a lot more than cheap birth control. Even uneventful pregnancies can run up medical bills in the tens of thousands of dollars, and women who qualify for free or reduced birth control with Planned Parenthood will almost certainly qualify for medicaid.There's a reason why every dollar spent on Title X funding saves four dollars in medicaid costs. Birth control will always be cheaper than prenatal care (and the savings grow even higher when you factor in how much WIC, food stamps, medicaid, free lunches, HUD housing, and TANF will wind up costing over the course of the ensuing eighteen years).

So, in addition to providing people with free or reduced cost healthcare and sex education, Planned Parenthood also saves the government millions of dollars in unpaid benefits. Cutting their funding would ultimately lead to a less healthy population (both literally and figuratively), as well as perniciously increase government spending. So let's all be sane about this and acknowledge that Planned Parenthood provides important public services, and stop trying to screw women over in the name of responsible (lulz) government spending.

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