Following the recent Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, concerns have been raised regarding the status of women’s health rights. Court decisions from Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey gave Planned Parenthood far-reaching rights. Now, its ability to provide reproductive health services to women has the possibility of being overturned. 

Planned Parenthood, founded in 1916, has grown to be a nationwide health services provider, offering a number of services: contraception, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment and cancer screenings. Planned Parenthood has ensured that they provide resources focusing on all facets of women’s health and treatment. 

Before the establishment of Planned Parenthood, illegal birth control education and strict abortion laws made it nearly impossible to open women’s clinics. Coming from a family of nurses and having watched her mother suffering from multiple miscarriages, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, started a movement to change these laws.

Eventually, Supreme Court decisions such as Griswold v. Connecticut ruled that states could not deny contraception sales to married couples. Ten states legalized birth control. Five years later, safe and legal abortion was introduced, and states started to add laws to allow for safe access. The first health center established was in Syracuse, NY, setting the precedent for the 600 clinics that exist today.

At least one in every five women has relied on a Planned Parenthood health center for care in her lifetime. Over the course of their establishment, Planned Parenthood has been a backbone in providing care to over 2.4 million patients, and given access to 4.7 million tests and treatments of sexually transmitted infection. In addition, they have given nearly “300,000 life-saving breast exams, more than 270,000 Pap smears, and birth control to nearly 2 million people”. It has expanded towards all facets of women’s health by helping raise awareness and accessibility about different treatments and therapies for women’s health issues.

In addition, Planned Parenthood has devoted its funding to focusing on bringing easy access to healthcare in underdeveloped areas. 56% of Planned Parenthood health centers are in rural or medically underserved areas, thus increasing access to healthcare while also providing care at low or no cost to low-income families.

According to Planned Parenthood records, patients who report their income, nearly 75% live with incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL), and at least 60% of Planned Parenthood patients access care through the Medicaid program and/or the Title X family planning program. 

These families rely on Planned Parenthood as their only affordable source of care. Without Planned Parenthood, many of these individuals may not have access to care. Those who already face barriers to accessing health care — people of color, people with low incomes, as well as people who live in rural areas — would be impacted the most. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 360,000 women would completely lose access to care if Congress were to block all Medicaid patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood health centers. 

It is estimated that Planned Parenthood health centers prevent nearly 400,000 unintended pregnancies each year.  In Texas, researchers found that eliminating Planned Parenthood from the state family planning program reduced access to full range contraceptive methods, leading to an increase in unintended pregnancies.  There was a 35% decline in women using the most effective methods of birth control and a 27% spike in births among women who had previously used injectable contraception. Due to these cutbacks without contraceptive care, the result is a net cost of permanently $130 million to taxpayers over 10 years. 

However, Planned Parenthood annually has a federal expenditure of over $235 million (2018), costing the government $530 million in order to provide affordable services. It is the leading healthcare provider, providing the largest number of abortion services each year. CBO estimates that the prohibition would reduce direct spending by $178 million in 2017 and by $234 million over the 2017-2026 period. According to state legislatures, this budget could be reallocated to research in women’s health resources such as ultrasounds, neonatal care and OB-GYN studies.

Over the course of the last 50 years, Planned Parenthood has become widely integrated in society, with millions of patients being treated by the services they provide. As the political landscape shifts, the state of healthcare may also face changes in the years to come. Evolution of Planned Parenthood on Womens’ Health

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