GOP policy increases demand for sexual health services

Maggie Smith

As controversy about Planned Parenthood has peaked in the last few weeks, many Redwood students have voiced their opinions about access to sexual health services. The options students have regarding these services may depend on the actions of the GOP in coming months.

On Jan. 5, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced that the Republican Party will attempt to defund Planned Parenthood as part of their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Ryan stated that taxpayers shouldn’t have to give tax money to Planned Parenthood since they offer controversial services, and while the money can’t directly fund abortions, it still supports the organization. Ryan’s proposed plan would direct the funds currently going to Planned Parenthood to alternative federal health centers that, according to him, are less controversial.

“Federal health centers” are health services that offer care to Medicaid patients. One of the biggest ways the government supports Planned Parenthood, and other federal health centers, is reimbursing these organizations for the services they perform on Medicaid users.

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Ryan claimed that for every Planned Parenthood center, there are 20 federal health centers that can provide similar services. However, Planned Parenthood and many other community organizations involved in sexual health, are not backing down without a fight.

“Paul Ryan is literally playing politics with women’s lives, and campaigning against the interest of his own constituents,” said Dawn Singiser, Planned Parenthood’s Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs, in a press release.

According to an October 2016 poll by the Harvard School of Public Health, 48 percent of Trump supporters favor continuing to fund Planned Parenthood, while 47 percent are in favor of defunding it.

Tam District Wellness Coordinator Anna Benitez, who previously worked at Planned Parenthood, said the issue involves not just sexual health services, but the issue of healthcare in general.

“It’s upsetting that healthcare can be used as a political pawn, and so I do think that it’s a possibility [Planned Parenthood is] on the chopping block,” she said, before Trump’s inauguration. “I feel like with the current presidential administration that that might be something they go after.”

According to Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, who appeared on a CNN program on Jan. 9, the demand for IUDs, a form of long-term contraception, from the organization has risen 900 percent since the election. This may suggest that women fear their access to sexual health services will be threatened by the Trump presidency.

Ryan believes that since some people don’t agree with some services Planned Parenthood provides, they shouldn’t have to pay taxes to an organization they morally oppose.

Recent attacks on Planned Parenthood by the GOP has caused the demand for IUDs, a form of female contraception, to increased 900% percent.
Recent attacks on Planned Parenthood by the GOP has caused the demand for IUDs, a form of female contraception, to increased 900% percent.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would primarily affect Medicaid users who choose the agency as their provider. In this situation, users would have to find another health center to receive sexual health and family planning services.

Senior Emma Newsom, who has used subsidized sexual health services, said she disagrees with the GOP’s actions, and is concerned about the effect they will have.

“[The government is] already struggling to take care of so many people in the U.S. alone,” Newsom said. “I am an upper-middle class white girl who lives in a city, but that’s not the case for most people.”

According to Benitez, her background in sexual health and education helps her see Planned Parenthood and sexual health services in a clear and factual way, rather than a more political way.

“If I wasn’t super involved or engaged in reproductive health, I may not necessarily know what’s true and what’s not true,” Benitez said.

Senior Ben Gold says he agrees with the GOP’s plans to defund Planned Parenthood because he doesn’t believe in government-subsidized healthcare.

“Women should be able to get abortions whenever they want,” he said, mentioning that his stance on the issue wasn’t about his morals. “I just don’t believe the government should pay for it.”

In California, nearly 60 percent of Medicaid patients are under age 26, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Additionally, 70 percent of Planned Parenthood users are under 30, meaning this issue overwhelmingly affects young people.

According to Newsom, Planned Parenthood appeals especially to teenagers, because while many people are scared to go to sexual health clinics out of fear or embarrassment, Planned Parenthood keeps their services confidential.

Newsom said another sexual health clinic teens commonly use is Huckleberry Youth Program, whose center provides healthcare, including sexual services, to adolescents, according to their website.

“Almost a majority of my friends have been to Planned Parenthood or used Huckleberry’s services, and we’ve had discussions about how great it is that it’s available to us,” she said.

Benitez said that if  Planned Parenthood were to be dissolved, it would limit the access teens have to teen-specific sexual health services and centers, especially those who choose not to get those services from their pediatrician or general practitioner.

“I do know that there are teens who like to keep their general health out of their sexual health because of the stigma or lack of communication with family,” she said.

Access to sexual health services is not only important for teenagers, but should be a right for all people, according to Newsom, who believes that Planned Parenthood is integral to upholding that right.

“To me what’s most important is that someone should have that be available to them, to be able to do what they want with their bodies and plan their futures how they would like,” Newsom said.

Similarly, Gold believes that having access to sexual health services and contraception is important for teens; however, he thinks that the government doesn’t need to be involved.

Benitez echoed the need for sexual health services to be accessible to high school students.

“Where they choose to get it doesn’t matter. Having sexual health services for teens is immensely important because we’re hoping to establish healthy habits with all people and healthy habits start young,” she said.