What Happens When Title X Funds are Stripped from Planned Parenthood – A Memphis Case Study
Tennessee is one of those states where Republicans worked hard this year on a pet political peeve – stripping Title X family planning money from Planned Parenthood. None of this money goes to abortions – it covers birth control, STI screenings, and the like, important preventive care that can support women in avoiding unplanned pregnancies and other health problems.
In Memphis, TN, those funds were then awarded to Christ Community Health Service, a religious health provider which indicated it would not provide women with emergency contraception, and would refuse to talk to women about abortion. Others reported getting a “sermon” with their healthcare visits.
The mixing of religion and healthcare for vulnerable patients who may not be able to access other, non-Christian and non-religious options, was obviously a huge concern. While the county health department would also provide Title X care, they obviously could not take on the entire load themselves. Another major concern, though, was that in their proposal for the funds, Christ Community pretty clearly indicated that they would not provide as much care to as many people.
Almost a year later, big surprise, that is turning out to be the case – fewer people accessing care, with major delays in Christ Community “gearing up” to serve the patients Planned Parenthood would have already been ready for. And the money that should have been used will be lost.
All told, around $572,000 of Shelby County’s $1,345,000 Title X grant did not get used between July 2011 and June 2012.
The result was a drastically reduced number of Title X patient visits in Shelby County. Christ Community, which Madlock says was busy transitioning to its new role as the Title X service provider, did not sign the Title X contract until March, five months after the contract was awarded. In the meantime, the number of Title X patient visits to Christ Community dropped, while the health department maintained its usual number of Title X visits.
In another story, from Hannah Sayle at the Memphis Flyer:
By the time Christ Community’s contract with the health department was finalized and signed on March 14th, Christ Community was averaging a mere 51 Title X visits a month, which pales in comparison to Planned Parenthood’s 719 Title X visits in July 2011 and 841 visits in August of last year.
Nor does it appear that the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD), the only other local Title X service provider, picked up the slack. Title X visits to health department clinics from October to March hovered around the normal average of 500 to 600 per month.
So patients who would have received care – including birth control – at Planned Parenthood didn’t get that care when the money went instead to Christ Community. Maybe they went somewhere else, paying more for needed care and sacrificing elsewhere if possible. Maybe, due to costs, delays, or simply not wanting religion pushed on them when trying to get adequate healthcare, they didn’t go anywhere. Whatever happened, it’s clear that a safety net in providing preventive health services didn’t catch as many people, and political games played a role.
I hope the Memphis Flyer will continue to investigate, and we’ll hear more about what happened to the women, not just the money. What’s clear now is succinctly described by Betsy Phillips, who covers the issue for The Scene’s blog, and puts it succinctly:
That’s bad. The money they didn’t use means patients they didn’t see, tests they didn’t run, healthcare they didn’t provide.