February 21, 2011

Proposed Cuts May Jeopardize Ithaca Sexual Health Services

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Planned Parenthood may lose up to $317 million in federal funding after the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Pence Amendment and passed the 2011 Federal Budget — which cuts the aid program for family planning — on Friday. The program, known as Title X, was introduced under President Richard Nixon.Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, which serves Tompkins County, sees more than 12,000 patients a year, according to Casey Martinson, the Director of Public Affairs. Ninety percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are preventative in nature, including screenings for breast and cervical cancer, sexually transmitted disease screenings, birth control and annual exams, Martinson said.“There is a misunderstanding among anti-abortion advocates … and the general public [about Planned Parenthood] because of our strong advocacy for a woman’s right to choose,” Martinson said.Thus, he argued the motivation for the cuts was ideological and not fiscal.“If [supporters of Title X defunding] really cared about the budget, this wouldn’t be the way to do it,” Martinson said.Martinson said that Planned Parenthood preventative measures save taxpayers an average of four dollars in Medicaid spending. Six in 10 women who receive care at a family planning health center like Planned Parenthood consider it their primary source of care, Martinson stated in a press release.  With increasing rates of local unemployment, the Southern Finger Lakes Planned Parenthood has seen a rise in new patients, Martinson said. While the clinic continues to serve patients regardless of their ability to pay, Martinson expressed concern that funding cuts will limit Planned Parenthood’s ability to do so successfully.  Although the University requires that students have insurance and Gannet provides family planning and sexual health services, Prof. Sharon Sassler, policy analysis and management, expressed concern about the implications of Title X defunding for Cornell graduates.  “It is when [students] leave the Cornell campus and may be in transition between jobs, or between graduate school and work, or do not have a regular physician, that the absence of funding for reproductive health services may affect them,” Sassler said.Sassler noted that this issue does not affect women exclusively. Men also face fiscal responsibilities during an unwanted pregnancy, she said.Furthermore, Sassler said that the notion that Planned Parenthood only assists unmarried couples is misleading. Most married couples want to space out their children and to exercise fertility control until they are economically prepared to raise a family, she said.“I have spent the last 10 years interviewing men and women … They have all experienced at some time pregnancy scares and unintended pregnancies,” Sassler said.For women who have unstable jobs or insurance that does not cover birth control, Title X defunding will seriously restrict their access to contraception, she said.

Federal budget deliberation has now moved to the Senate.“I will be extremely disappointed if this passes … I hope that the Democrat-controlled Senate will not let it through,” said Lauren Schneider ’11, president of Cornell’s Voices of Planned Parenthood. “I don’t feel most understand the gravity of the situation.”There are seven Republicans who continue to support Planned Parenthood, according to Martinson.Democratic New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand said they plan to oppose cuts to Planned Parenthood.“It appears that today’s women should not be taking their sexual freedom and reproductive health for granted,” Sassler said. “If there is a rollback of the health care legislation … and if funding for Title X gets cut, recent college grads who are no longer on their parents’ insurance and who may not have full-time jobs with benefits may find it difficult to afford contraceptives.”

Original Author: Tajwar Mazhar