Women ponder choices when Planned Parenthood funding disappears
By Chelsea Schneider Kirk firstname.lastname@example.org May 8, 2011 7:12PM
Northwest Indiana is home to six health centers. The majority of the centers are in Lake County with ones in Gary, East Chicago, Hammond and Merrillville. Here’s a breakdown of the county’s numbers for 2010:
Unduplicated patients served: 13,733
Total visits: 35,599
Male patients: 934
Women patients: 12,799
Source: Planned Parenthood of Indiana
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Christine Dockery, a 30-year-old mother of two, makes an appointment at Gary’s Planned Parenthood every 11 weeks to receive birth control.
The single mother depends on the not-for-profit. She can walk to the Gary location and her birth control and annual exam are free with Medicaid.
Dockery estimates her birth control would cost $60 to $120 elsewhere.
A bill Gov. Mitch Daniels intends to sign into law bars government funding for Planned Parenthood, blocking patients from using Medicaid benefits at the organization’s 28 health centers and could potentially impact federal funding Gary, East Chicago and six other sites receive.
“In Indiana, I’ve been living here for 2½ years. I don’t know any other service providers with birth control,” said Dockery, of Gary. “It would have a big effect on my life.”
Planned Parenthood of Indiana plans to file an injunction in an attempt to block the legislation, which places $3 million of its funding at risk and potentially unplugs 22,000 low-income Indiana residents from the organization’s reproductive health care services.
Daniels ordered the Family and Social Services Administration to notify Medicaid recipients of other care options, listing 140 providers in Lake and Porter counties.
The heart of the bill prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in certain circumstances, and requires a woman seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound unless she states in writing she doesn’t want the procedure.
The bill removes funding from Planned Parenthood by prohibiting state agencies from having contracts or making grants to organizations that perform abortions. Planned Parenthood maintains it uses private donations and patient fees, not tax dollars, to fund abortions.
Medicaid patients may bear the immediate impact of the bill, Planned Parenthood of Indiana President and CEO Betty Cockrum said.
“On its face, we would have to call Medicaid patients and say to them you need to seek either your services somewhere else or you can keep the appointment with us or come in and get birth control, but there is a fee because we can’t let you cover it with Medicaid any longer,” Cockrum said. “Those are not phone calls we want to make.”
Business as usual
The check-in window at Gary’s Planned Parenthood greets patients with a note: “Your support has meant so much as we fight to ensure your health care does not suffer because of politics.”
Despite the tension, business is going on as usual.
Appointments are booked until May 16. Patients have called wanting the earliest appointment before the bill becomes law later this year. Others have asked manager Maritza Torres if the center will close.
The Gary location serves about 30 patients a day, 15 percent of those used Medicaid last year. Patients without Medicaid can use insurance or pay a fee for health screenings or birth control. Abortions aren’t done at the Gary facility, but Pap tests, STD screenings and a variety of other health services are.
“Where else can you buy a pack of pills for $1.75?” Torres said.
Torres worries what would happen if the Gary location loses the federal family planning dollars it receives. She expects fees would go up.
Defining the need
Monica Norris, 25, of Merrillville, began going to Planned Parenthood when she had her first baby.
“It’s a free way to get stuff you need as a woman,” Norris said. “I just think it’s crazy. They offer so many services to young girls out there who need it.”
Yet, a director of a Northwest Indiana not-for-profit feels Planned Parenthood patients have alternatives readily available. Donna Golob’s organization, A Positive Approach to Teen Health, educates middle and high school students in making healthy choices.
“In the bill being promoted and sitting on the governor’s desk, the goal would be to take money removed from the Planned Parenthood organization and redistribute that money into other clinics,” Golob said, “that would make those things available for women. They’re not taking away services. They’re changing who is providing them and overall providing women more of a total health package rather than a crisis health package.”
State Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, harbors concerns over the bill and feels it will negatively impact women.
“I voted against the bill for that very reason,” Landske said. “I certainly do not support the abortion services that they provide, but I do support the family planning and the other services that they make available to women.”