As a board certified OB-GYN specializing in gynecologic cancers, I have cared for thousands of patients over 33 years – women in both rural and urban settings, and women who, because of cervical disease or infection, had their reproductive potential shortened.
I also cared for women who eventually died because they needed an aggressive treatment that wasn’t available early enough to make a difference. I know what it is for women to urgently need access to expert, compassionate health care – before it is too late.
That’s where Title X comes in. Title X is a federal grant distributed to states or other recipients to fund these early screenings for reproductive cancers, plus other family planning services, family planning education, and outreach. Gov. Pete Ricketts and interest groups such as the Nebraska Family Alliance would have you believe Planned Parenthood misuses Title X to fund abortions.
Gov. Ricketts and these groups are wrong – possibly because they don’t know the truth, hopefully not because they find it politically expedient to misrepresent the facts.
As Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s associate medical director, I can state unequivocally that not one penny of Title X money is used to provide abortion services. There are entirely separate clinical days for these services, separate billing and separate processes for family planning services (contraceptive information and services, annual well-woman exams, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, HPV testing and vaccinations, health services for survivors of sexual assault) and those for abortion care.
Here’s the truth about how Title X is used:
Not long ago, a young woman presented to our health center after going many years without OB-GYN care because she couldn’t afford it. At the time of the exam, she was found to have both an abnormal pap test requiring treatment and a cancerous lesion.
Without Title X and the care of the clinician in that setting, this patient would have progressed to more advanced disease requiring even more extensive and expensive treatment. Conversely, if she had access to care earlier, she may have never developed cancer at all.
This woman was one of the 8,786 patients seen for care last year at Planned Parenthood’s Omaha and Lincoln health centers. That care included more than 3,000 breast exams, 1,000 pap tests and nearly 18,000 STD tests. Many of these services were covered by Title X for patients who could not afford them.
I want to make sure people have the facts about Title X. There are groups that will stop at nothing to prevent a woman having access to abortion – including removing access to life-saving cancer screenings and birth control options – and who think nothing of a woman’s constitutional rights.
The governor’s proposal is not a “pro-life” policy, by any account. In fact, this plan to restructure Title X all but ensures that the abortion rate in Nebraska will increase in direct proportion to the decreased access to birth control.
On that note, I sometimes hear the dangerous, medically inaccurate and misleading statements that contraceptives do not prevent unintended pregnancies, nor guard against the spread of STDs.
But the science, the medicine, and the data do not lie: When contraceptives are used, particularly long-acting and reversible types such as IUDs, unintended pregnancy rates plummet and the rate of abortion decreases. We also know that using appropriate contraceptives, such as male or female condoms, is the second most effective means of protecting against the contraction and spread of STDs, after abstinence.
No matter where they stand on abortion, Nebraskans agree that all people should have access to the services available through Title X. More than 28,000 Nebraskans relied on Title X last year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services; Planned Parenthood cared for more than one-quarter of them. Untold thousands more needed Title X services but didn’t have access because the need far outweighs this important resource.
If Nebraskans really love Nebraskans, why would they purposefully block access to excellent care for the most vulnerable in their communities and to women in particular? It is time to stop this war against women’s health care – including her right to choose Planned Parenthood.
Dr. Deborah Ann Turner is associate medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. She practices in its Lincoln and Omaha clinics.