This afternoon a group of women’s health supporters in Louisiana delivered more than 6,000 postcards and letters directly to Governor Bobby Jindal’s office from patients and supporters across the state calling on him to put politics aside and stand with Planned Parenthood.
On August 3, 2015 — just days before he took the national stage at the first second-tier Republican Presidential Debate — Governor Bobby Jindal notified Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast it would no longer be eligible to provide preventive health care to patients through the state’s Medicaid program. As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just reminded Governor Jindal, it violates federal law to prevent Medicaid patients from obtaining services, including family planning services, from any qualified provider. Efforts in Arizona and Indiana to bar Planned Parenthood from Medicaid have been blocked by federal courts.
“More than 5,000 low-income Louisianans were able to come to Planned Parenthood and access high-quality affordable health care through the safety net provided by Medicaid funding, but we know there is a vast unmet need for care in our communities. As it stands today, nearly one in five women in Louisiana are uninsured, 60 percent of pregnancies in Louisiana were unintended, and New Orleans and Baton Rouge have some of the highest HIV infection rates of all U.S. cities,” said Melissa Flournoy. “We need more health care providers dedicated to caring for women in New Orleans and Baton Rouge — not less. Backed by thousands of supporters around the state, we’re here to tell Governor Jindal directly: Planned Parenthood will fight these attacks on our patients and all Louisiana women with everything we’ve got.”
Planned Parenthood has two health centers in Louisiana, located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and both of these health centers provide care in Health Professional Shortage Areas. In a single year, Planned Parenthood health centers in Louisiana provide approximately 10,000 patients high-quality reproductive health services including well-woman exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing and risk reduction counseling, a full-range of FDA-approved birth control methods, pregnancy testing and options counseling, and screening for high blood pressure and diabetes. A significant proportion of these patients in Louisiana received this care through Medicaid. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast plays a particularly important role in ensuring women in Baton Rouge have access to family planning care, where Governor Jindal’s hostile health care policies forced LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center and the Baton Rouge General Medical Center emergency room to close.
Drawing upon her research on the impact of similar cuts to women’s health programs in Texas, Kari White, assistant professor in the department of Health Care Organization and Policy at the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, wrote, “[M]easures to exclude Planned Parenthood from publicly funded programs at the state and national level will make it more difficult for women to obtain necessary health care…. [In Texas, f]ederally qualified health centers and public health departments were not always able to fill the gaps in many communities. They were not interested in taking on the challenge of administering family planning programs or accepting the programs’ low reimbursement for services. Others lacked clinical staff with necessary experience in women’s health care, such as training to insert IUDs (one of the most effective forms of contraception) and offering evidence-based approaches for STI and cancer screening and contraceptive provision. Even if women are able to find a new provider, they may have long waits to get an appointment, need to make multiple visits, or unnecessarily repeat exams before they can start or renew their contraceptive method or obtain other follow-up care.”
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast -- which does not provide abortions in Louisiana -- was recently the subject of a politically motivated audit about the proper use of Medicaid funds. In February 2014, Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office found no evidence that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast improperly billed Medicaid or recommended abortions in Louisiana.
Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation's largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.