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Who Knows or Cares How Planned Parenthood Cuts Affect Nashville Women’s Health Care?

June 29, 2011

Not the Governor who pushed for the move, apparently.

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Republican-led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Tennessee will affect women in Nashville – one of two TN cities where the state usually gives federal family planning and cancer prevention money to Planned Parenthood. In Nashville, that money will now go to the local health department, which explicitly said that it doesn’t expect to serve the same number of women for the money.

Planned Parenthood made up the gap between the federal funds and what it takes to actually serve Nashville’s women by raising funds from donations. The health department does not expect any additional funds to make the shortfall, and would need local tax increases to make up the difference.

As at least one Twitter friend observed, the irony of Republicans causing health care to be shifted *to* the government – and needing to raise taxes if the same level of service is to be provided – is just too bitter to appreciate.

Jeff Woods has additional follow-up on this story for the Nashville City Paper, where he writes, “Told that health officials fear thousands of women might lose services once Planned Parenthood is denied federal money…the governor wouldn’t acknowledge the problem.”

“It’s news to me if that’s true,” he said. “Nobody’s told me that.

Oh, really?

As I pointed out in the previous post, the letter from the Metro Public Health director accepting the money was pretty damn explicit that the same number of women would not be served.

Perhaps Governor Haslam never saw that letter. Perhaps State Health Commissioner Susan Cooper, who reportedly pressed Metro to accept the funds at Haslam’s urging, didn’t tell her boss that this political “win” came with a downside for women seeking health care. Perhaps nobody on the Governor’s staff reads the news and not a single person involved in the political pressure to move the funds either thought of or worried about the implications and was willing to say so. I’ll pause here so we can all ponder whether that seems likely, and what it means if it is.

Notice that the quote Woods got from the Governor doesn’t say, “That’s news to me, and we’ll make sure the same level of preventive care and family planning services is provided, because the health of Tennessee’s women, including vulnerable low-income women, is important to me.” There is no “we’ll check on that” addendum, at least in Woods’s reporting. What this suggests is that the Governor Haslam may not have known – which is problematic on its own – but doesn’t especially care. “Nobody’s told me that” is a brush-off, one that doesn’t commit Haslam to any future worrying about or follow-up on this issue.

I also wrote in my previous post that I am troubled by public health officials accepting this money knowing that doing so, in addition to playing a part in a ridiculous political agenda, would mean fewer women getting the same services for the same money. In Woods’s piece, Metro Health Director Bill Paul weakly defends this move with the excuse that he thought the state legislature might kill the funding altogether if he didn’t. “I honestly was quite concerned that the money would go away completely,” he said.

I’d like to know how Paul thinks that would have worked out given that the funds are federal, and would have put Tennessee in basically the same position as Indiana. The state trying such a move might actually have worked out better for Nashville’s women, because the federal funding agency might have stepped in at that point as they have in Indiana – which was already happening when Paul accepted the funds in Nashville.

Paul reportedly told Woods he hopes nonprofit family planning providers will fill the unmet need caused by Metro taking the funds. Uh, again, nonprofit family planning providers LIKE PLANNED PARENTHOOD? Paul played a role in solidifying that gap in services by accepting funds that would have been supplemented by private donations if they had one to Planned Parenthood. And now he hopes some unnamed non-profit family planning provider – presumably through private donations – can make up the gap? Who does he think is likely to do that? Is this really just a way of saying, “We took the money because of political pressure, but we really hope Planned Parenthood can keep providing those services, because we know and have acknowledged that we don’t have the capacity?” Maybe Paul’s secretly a great guy in a tough position, but I’m pretty sure being complicit in this situation was not the best way to protect or promote the public’s health.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen permalink
    June 29, 2011 9:33 pm

    Thanks for keeping us informed & up to date. This is such a horrible blow to all the women in Nashville, myself included. I feel as if those in charge hate women! Everyone is a misogynist! What’s really sad is that most of the people opposed to PP don’t realize what invaluable health services they provide to women. They have no idea what we are losing.

  2. Elmer Gantry permalink
    June 30, 2011 12:52 pm

    Check the fiscal note: the anti-Planned Parenthood legislation that Ramsey claimed during his ill-fated to have “…led the charge on that” (Ramsey was neither a Senate sponsor or co-sponsor of the legislation” will cost Tennessee taxpayers an additional $152,800 each and every year!

    • June 30, 2011 1:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing that info, Elmer. Is there a link available? [added: Yeah, I know, I'm a librarian, I should just look it up. But if you have it handy... ;) ]

  3. Cara permalink
    January 18, 2012 6:25 am

    I was a client at the Nashville Planned Parenthood because, since losing my job, I have no health insurance and could not afford a private doctor or out of pocket costs for the birth control pill. Please let me tell you about my experiences seeking women’s health services since PP lost its funding here. This year my annual exam came due, which is necessary to continue getting birth control pills. I called PP for an appointment again and found that the sliding scale cost of my visit had sky-rocketed from $25.00 to $150.00, and the pills would be $25.00/pack vs. the old $4.00/pack. Wow, how could I manage? Well here is how: I called our local health department’s WIC office, made an appointment (one was available for later that day in fact), went in, waited approximately half an hour, received excellent medical services from a lovely nurse practitioner, as well as 1 year’s worth of birth control pills, condoms and a bottle of women’s multivitamins. The cost? On a sliding scale, all services and products were free based on my low income. The services I received at the local health department were superior in price, professionalism and waiting time (at PP I waited nearly 3 hours for an appointment that it took me a month to get). My feelings on the issue? I don’t feel entitled to free birth control pills in spite of my financial troubles. I was grateful to PP for cheaper health services and birth control pills, but I am also very grateful to the public health department here in Nashville too. I noticed literally dozens of other clients being serviced efficiently and professionally, so I don’t necessarily believe less women are being serviced. If anything it seemed that more women were being served at a greater rate and with increased efficiency (The PP room was crowded with the same small group of individuals for hours on end in my experience). Based on my experience and the experiences of other similarly situated females in Nashville, I have no problem with the transfer of funding. Thank you for taking the time to read my comment.

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