I Stand With Planned Parenthood

The relentless war against family planning

Do It

What: I Stand With Planned Parenthood

When: Sun., Sep. 10

Where: Aslan Brewing Co., 1330 N Forest St.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Congress returns to Washington, D.C., after a brief August recess, with an unusually heavy workload. Lawmakers will need to secure emergency aid for hurricane victims, fund children’s health care for nearly nine million children in low- and moderate-income households, and consider shielding “Dreamers”— young illegal immigrants—from deportation under the president’s new initiative. They’d like to rewrite the tax code. But above all, Congress, must raise the debt limit and pass a spending plan by Sept. 29 or risk plunging the nation into default.

And with all that on their plate, and more, you can be certain the entire mess may slide off over the funding of Planned Parenthood.

As an exasperated Los Angeles Times editorial board noted last spring after a temporary plan was approved to fund this well-regarded and crucial healthcare provider—which Republicans have tried, obsessively, to dismantle for years—“let’s remind legislators, again, how short-sighted and harmful it would be to single out Planned Parenthood, not in an effort to improve healthcare, but in an attempt to punish it for also providing legal and safe abortions—none of which are financed with federal dollars. (Congress routinely prohibits federal dollars from being spent on abortions.) And abortions comprise a tiny fraction of the services the organization’s clinics perform; Planned Parenthood estimates that abortions represent only 3 percent of the care provided by the organization.”

About 2.5 million people—women and men—are seen annually at Planned Parenthood clinics. They come for breast examinations and cervical cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and infections, contraception and family planning, urinary tract infection treatments and other primary care services. Many of the clinics’ patients are lower-income, and almost all of the federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives is through health programs aimed at low-income Americans.
Planned Parenthood receives approximately $554.6 million in federal funds each year. Without that money, clinics would face a major crisis.

But while conservative politicians often talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, and regularly introduce legislation to do so, defunding Planned Parenthood isn’t just a matter of taking away dollars. There isn’t a line-item in the federal budget that Trump or either chamber of Republican-controlled Congress could just eliminate.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t just receive a check that it can dispense at-will to varying programs and clinic affiliates. Planned Parenthood’s federal funding comes, instead, in the form of reimbursements for public insurance programs, including Medicaid, which completely covers low-income individuals, and Title X, which provides comprehensive family planning care to low-income individuals.

In October 2016, Planned Parenthood celebrated a century of providing women’s health services. Planned Parenthood was founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams—no ceilings, no limits.

In Whatcom and Skagit counties, Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood has been in existence since 1969, beginning as the Family Planning Association, a program started by a group of concerned community citizens and medical providers—all volunteers. In 1970, the agency was accepted as an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In 2016, MBPP provided medical services approximately 9,000 clients for more than 35,000 medical visits. The organization’s education programs served more than 4,800 school-age children, parents, young mothers and special populations including developmentally disabled and incarcerated youth.

“Anyone can come to our offices, it doesn’t matter where they come from,” MBPP Executive Director Linda McCarthy noted. “But we are Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan county based, and sanctioned by Planned Parenthood.

“We have our baby bear clinic in Friday Harbor, with two exam rooms open one day a week. Our mama bear clinic is in Mount Vernon, and it has seven exam rooms and two procedure rooms, and it is open five days a week. In Bellingham is our big papa bear clinic, and it offers 14 exam rooms and four procedure rooms, and it is open six days a week.

“We are open and welcoming to any woman or man, adult or teen, who wants to come in and learn about our services. Our business,” she said, “is prevention.”
Women’s health screenings are so common at MBPP that that the clinic does nearly all of them, and receives referrals from PeaceHealth St. Joseph, which cannot provide screenings at the same cost.

In states like Texas, where small clinics have closed in remote rural areas, the caseloads have been taken up by already burdened metropolitan hospitals.

As the LA Times editorial board observed last spring, nothing really explains the Republican obsession at the federal level to destroy Planned Parenthood.

“In fact,” the newspaper reported, “recent polls suggest that most voters support the organization and want its funding to continue. A Quinnipiac University poll showed that 61 percent of registered voters oppose cutting federal aid for Planned Parenthood. (The number went up to 80 percent when it was explained that federal funding for the provider cannot be used for abortions.) According to Planned Parenthood officials, supporters made more than 122,000 phone calls to members of Congress over the last several months and organized more than 1,000 events across the country to demonstrate their support.”

A letter to lawmakers signed by nearly two dozen national associations of healthcare professionals and public health groups emphasized how essential Planned Parenthood clinics are to the network of health care providers in the country: “More than 50 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in areas with health professional shortages, rural or medically underserved areas,” the letter states. “Policies that would exclude Planned Parenthood from public health funding would hurt millions of patients and undermine health care access in communities across the country.”

Perhaps the greatest tragedy in restricted access to reproductive health and women’s health services is that the numbers are all moving in the right direction: Teenage pregnancies have been cut in half since 2001, across all demographics. Unwanted pregnancies are down. Low-weight births are down. Incidence of cervical cancer is down.
Republicans have won the war. They just can’t declare it.

The bugaboo is abortion, which is only a fraction of what Planned Parenthood does—and if the organization was more robustly supported at the federal level, even those numbers would decline.

“If you remove access to family planning, then people are still going have abortions—whether they’re legal or illegal,” McCarthy said. “We’re all seeing rising numbers of women who are buying services and devices on the Internet.”

When social service workers and demographers drill down into the data of what these women are searching for online, self-abortion factors high.

“That’s dangerous,” McCarthy said, “and yet it is desperation that causes women who do not have access, or can’t go to certain states that require a two-day wait—when they can barely cobble money together to go there.”

Women of means will always get what they want and need, McCarthy noted.

“What we’re trying to do as an organization is level the playing field between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots,’” McCarthy notes. “That’s not happening. Access is very unequal across the United States.”

Washington is fortunate in that deep support exists for reproductive health and women’s health services. That’s not the case across the country, but it is the case thoughout Washington.

“There is a very strong network of providers in the eastern portion of the state,” McCarthy said. “They’re not without challenges.

“Two years ago, the Pullman clinic experienced a significant arson event that caused the clinic to have to restructure. And yet they kept their doors open. They put up tents in the parking lot, and made sure that people got their supplies. And Pullman does not provide abortion services—didn’t matter, still attacked.

“We’re not immune to the right-wing violence that we’re seeing played out in diferent ways across America,” McCarthy said.

“In many ways the bullying we’ve been seeing—it’s been going on for many, many years. Women have experienced it.

“It’s outside our clinic,” she said. “There is the man who screams at our staff, and our patients, and tries to ‘sidewalk counsel’ people. Others say terrible and hurtful things to people trying to access services, whatever those services may be. Many family planning clinics across the country do not even provide abortion services. It doesn’t matter to the people protesting.

“They have a right to peacefully protest, of course. But they don’t peacefully protest. They bully.”

At its essence, Planned Parenthood providers say, the objection is one of control, born of a deep-seated misogyny that spreads across gender.

“Over the years, I have been watching more and more people who are rabidly anti-abortion get elected,” McCarthy said. “In isolation, it is a personal preference. But now you can flip a switch, and there are enough of them that they are absolutists. And moralists.

“And for many of them, the issue is even upstream of abortion. For some, it is a matter that if you are not married, you shouldn’t be having sex. And if you are married, sex should only be for procreation,” she said. “In this sense, a woman’s only function, her purpose, is to give birth.”

“We can’t go backward,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said at a Planned Parenthood rally in July. “We can’t go back to the days when women could be denied care due to so-called pre-existing conditions, like pregnancy or being a victim of domestic violence; when women could be legally discriminated against and charged more for their care; when the insurance companies had all the leverage—and too often, it was women who paid the price,” the Democrat from Washington said.

“Republicans should do the right thing and stop their crusade against Planned Parenthood,” the LA Times advised. “In the end, there is no political, economic, or public health gain to continuing it.”

Aslan: I Stand IPA

When Aslan Brewing Co. crafted their business plan, they made a commitment to organic ingredients, locally sourced goods and low-impact practices, and they aimed to offer the community something new and refreshing with a focus on the sustainable. They committed to produce a special craft beer each year and donate a portion of the sales in support of a local non profit.

This year, Aslan has partnered with Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood for a special beer release, the I Stand IPA.

In an effort to promote awareness for reproductive health care services and raise money, Aslan and MBPP have joined forces to take a stand together for the local health care community. The I Stand IPA, a Centennial Fresh Hop India Pale Ale, will be sold in-house and distributed around Western Washington, with 5 percent of sales being donated to Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood.

“All of us at Aslan Brewing Company are honored to be partnering with one of the strongest pillars of the local health care community,” Aslan CEO Jack Lamb said. “Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood has been helping women, men and teens longer than most of us have been alive, and right now, they need some serious support as they face rising challenges from both local and national opposition. Aslan will always make a stand for human rights and quality health care, simple as that, which is why this collaboration a great fit. Together, we hope to bolster the conversation surrounding sexual health, raise funds for local MBPP locations, and have some fun while we do it!”

Planned events for the day include a scavenger hunt among competing teams. On the day of their event, Aslan will donate 10 percent of I Stand IPA sales to Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood.

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