With the release of yet another shocking Planned Parenthood video, defenders of the organization continue to argue that defunding Planned Parenthood would, as Hillary Clinton put it, “deny women . . . the health care they need and deserve.” This claim is false. The legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood instantly makes that money available “to other eligible entities to provide such women’s health care services” — entities like community health centers, or CHCs.
As a former medical director and family physician at two different community health centers in the Washington, D.C., area, I understand women’s health-care needs, especially those of the poor and underserved. I have witnessed firsthand how CHC medical professionals and staff provide comprehensive health care for women, as well as for men and children of all ages, including those yet to be born.
Planned Parenthood touts its role in providing “affordable sexual and reproductive health care to millions of women, men, and teens,” but where does a young woman go who is struggling with her weight? What health-care services does Planned Parenthood offer a woman with a strong family history of heart disease? Or what if a woman has symptoms of asthma or eczema or depression? Or maybe you’re a mom with several young children: You need a pap smear and they need well-child visits, and, given your crazy schedule, it would be best to get all your care in the same place.
For all these needs and more, CHCs are there. Today, they serve the primary health-care needs of 23 million patients in over 9,000 locations across America. That’s about nine times more than the 2.7 million women and men Planned Parenthood serves at its 700 health centers. And CHCs provide all kinds of health care, including everything that Planned Parenthood does and then some — except abortions.
For example, as a family physician, I cared for women whether they were seeking prenatal care or wanted to postpone pregnancy. I provided the full range of preventive health services and helped patients manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. I also cared for children from their very first newborn visit to their school physicals and visits for acute and chronic illnesses. My colleagues and I cared for adults of all ages, addressing their physical and mental-health needs.
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When I served as a CHC medical director, we provided comprehensive preventive and chronic-care services for the poor and uninsured. We offered “Celebrate Life ~ Celebramos la Vida,” a wellness program through which women received comprehensive exams, including blood-pressure screening and laboratory tests as needed; pap smears to detect cervical cancer; and even mammograms, which women received on-site, to detect breast cancer. For any woman who had abnormal mammograms, a patient navigator ensured that she received the appropriate follow-up care. This is far more than that Planned Parenthood offers women, which is just a referral for a mammogram. For men and women with obesity, diabetes, or heart disease we offered a program called “Healthy Steps ~ Pasos Saludables,” through which our physicians and patient educators partnered with our patients to help them manage chronic diseases through appropriate medical treatment and to help then maintain a healthy diet and weight.
I’m proud to be a family physician and to have had the privilege of working at CHCs providing truly life-saving care for women and men of all ages. With more funding, CHCs could do even more to expand access to comprehensive health care. Rather than give federal dollars to Planned Parenthood — an organization tainted not only by abortion but now also by its unethical and possibly illegal trade in human body parts — let’s give the money to CHCs, which can truly care for the full range of women’s health-care needs.