U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, on Tuesday echoed nationwide calls by Republicans to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the agency that provides treatment and prevention for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer screenings, contraceptives and abortions.
Calls to end federal funding to the organization aren’t new, but the latest round of criticism from the GOP began earlier this year after videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal sale of fetus parts surfaced online.
“Many of us felt disgust and outrage over the Planned Parenthood videos. In them we find a blatant disregard for life and an abuse of the system,” Shimkus said. “The fact that we as taxpayers still support this is objectionable.”
Planned Parenthood analyzed those videos and has claimed they have been heavily edited and don’t accurately reflect the conversations they show.
Federal lawmakers are considering this month a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood for a year while Congressional investigations into the organization are conducted. Another would eliminate funding for physicians that are found to sell parts of fetuses or conduct partial-birth abortions, Shimkus said.
He said the Planned Parenthood debate highlighted an alternative source for women’s health services that Medicaid recipients can use. Federally Qualified Health Centers, he said, are far more prevalent and provide far more services. He said the 670 FQHCs located throughout Illinois also utilize Medicaid funding to provide services beyond reproductive care and contraception, including mammograms, vaccines, diabetes screenings, pediatric care, blood tests and radiological services.
“They have more access to care. Whatever you feel about the national healthcare law, a premise was to get to medical homes, so people could have one place to go,” Shimkus said. “The Planned Parenthood clinics are not a medical home.”
There are 18 Planned Parenthood clinics in Illinois. Southern Illinois is covered by two of those clinics — the Swansea site and one in Effingham.
According to a statement from Planned Parenthood of Illinois president and CEO Carole Brite, “In Illinois, 767,000 women of reproductive age are in need of publicly supported contraceptive services and supplies — 28 percent are teenagers and 72 percent have family incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level.”
“In fact, in seven Illinois counties, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of (federally funded) preventative planning services accessible to low-income patients regardless of ability to pay,” Brite’s statement said. “These are the facts — and most importantly, the patients behind the facts — on which Congressman Shimkus would turn his back.”
While Shimkus touted the expanded care options available at FQHC’s, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman wrote in an email that its locations provide more focused “sexual and reproductive health services” and provides more than twice as much care covered under Title X, a federal women’s health grant program, than do all of the state’s FQHC’s.
A mixture of federal, state and local government funds made up the $528.4 million in public dollars in Planned Parenthood’s fiscal 2014 budget, which was almost 41 percent of the organization’s $1.3 billion for the year, according to its annual report. Private donations and grants and funds from non-government sources make up the rest of Planned Parenthood’s budget.
Only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s budget in fiscal 2014 — or about $39 million — was used for abortions. No public funds have been used for the controversial procedures since 1980 after the Hyde Amendment, which was named for the late U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde, R-Chicago, became effective. That provision bans using public funds for abortions except in cases of rape or incest and in cases where a mother’s health would be threatened if she carried a fetus to term.
But Shimkus said that federal law is misleading because, even though Medicaid costs in Illinois are split evenly between the state and the federal government, the state alone determines what services are paid for by public money. If state policy allows for the use of government funds to conduct abortions, Shimkus said, the federal government still has to honor its end of the bargain and pony up half of the state’s Medicaid costs.