Family planning cuts would disproportionately affect Latinas, Planned Parenthood clinic directors say

Recently proposed federal and state family-planning spending cuts would disproportionately hinder low-income Latinas’ access to reproductive care, said several women’s reproductive care providers and advocates during a teleconference organized this week by Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Clinic directors from local Planned Parenthood affiliates near predominately Hispanic communities illustrated how federal and state legislation might impact low-income Hispanic women, many of whom are uninsured and rely on grant-funded services offered by Planned Parenthood or other community health clinics to obtain low-cost contraception, gynecological exams, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and family-planning education.

“Threats to Planned Parenthood at the federal level mean threats to our ability to provide vital primary and prenatal care to Latinas and their families via Medicaid,” said Guadalupe Rodriguez, director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, whose health centers serve 29 counties in California.

Despite threats from the Republican-led U.S. House, the approved 2011 budget maintained Planned Parenthood funding for family planning services; however, in the final spending plan, programs that provide low-cost reproductive health care access and pregnancy prevention received significant cuts. The appropriation to Title X of the Public Health Service Act was reduced from $317 million to $300 million, and the budget cut approximately $500 million from the Women, Infants, and Children program, which provides federal grants to states for supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breast feeding postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be “at a nutritional risk.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Hispanic population grew by 43 percent during the past decade, to 50.5 million people, making up 16 percent of the total U.S. population. In 2009, 23 percent of Planned Parenthood patients nationwide, approximately 620,000 people, were Hispanic, said Destiny Lopez, director of Latino engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She noted that the number of male Hispanic patients increased by 191 percent in the last decade.

Lopez said that in the nine states where the Hispanic population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, in all but one have several measures — such as family planning cuts, abortion restrictions and abstinence-only education programs — been introduced that could potentially restrict access to reproductive health care.

“With the attacks on women’s health care in Congress and in the states, even more Latinas could be cut off from basic reproductive health care like birth control, cancer screenings, and other essential services,” said Elizabeth Barajas-Román, director of policy at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

Barajas-Román said that women with legal status have to wait five years to qualify for health care, including access to reproductive services such as birth control. These cuts will make it even harder for these women to get care, she said.

In Texas — where Latinos make up 37 percent of the state’s population, according to 2009 census figures — the state House voted this month to cut $60 million from family planning programs in their version of the state budget.

Last year, the federal government designated $155 million in new funding for the Personal Responsibility Education Program, a state grant program that funds sex education that includes information on abstinence, contraception and pregnancy- and STD-prevention. But state lawmakers only have until the end of the month to decide whether to apply for approximately $9 million of this grant money — meaning they might not put in a request.

“The [Texas] House budget looks terrible,” said Patricio Gonzalez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County, the seventh-largest county in Texas, located on the Texas-Mexican border.

Gonzalez said the funding cut proposal translates into nearly 70 percent in cuts to family planning services, which he predicted would lead to the shutdown of eight to 10 of his clinics, affecting approximately 18,000 women.

Lillian Tamayo, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast, which covers Key West to Indian River, said that Hispanic women make up 20 percent of the population in her area and have disproportionately higher pregnancy, birth and cancer rates.

“The Florida Legislature, rather than being concerned on the creation of jobs, what they’ve done is dismantle women’s rights and attack women’s health,” Tamayo said, noting the 18 bills the state has introduced related to reproductive rights restrictions. ”It’s a wholesale attack on women.”

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