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“The suggestion that FQHCs become the main source of publicly funded family planning care is a matter of political convenience, not a viable policy proposal.”

Washington, DC --  A new policy analysis by the Guttmacher Institute details that “it is unrealistic to Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to serve the millions of women who currently rely on Planned Parenthood for high-quality contraceptive care.” Notably, FQHCs, more commonly known as Community Health Centers, do not provide family planning care at many sites, serve far fewer contraceptive patients on average, and for those and other reasons absolutely cannot replace Planned Parenthood. The research, out today, is entitled “Federally Qualified Health Centers: Vital Sources of Care, No Substitute for the Family Planning Safety Net.”

Quote from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

As this report makes clear, ending access to Planned Parenthood would be devastating, and leave millions of people with nowhere else to go for essential health care. It’s time to end this charade that Planned Parenthood is somehow replaceable -- it’s a thinly-veiled political attack on women’s health and rights. Women’s health and lives cannot be an afterthought. If politicians do not end these senseless attacks on women’s health care, millions of women across the country will be hurt in the process.

In an attempt to justify so-called “defunding” of Planned Parenthood -- which in fact means prohibiting Medicaid patients from turning to Planned Parenthood health centers for basic care -- some politicians have made the false claim that Community Health Centers could simply replace the care that Planned Parenthood provides. This claim has been refuted by public health experts and Community Health Centers themselves. The experts at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Partnership for Women & Families said flat out: they can't cover the gap. Even the executive director of the American Public Health Association has called such claims “ludicrous.”

Among the key findings of the analysis and new data:

  • The average FQHC site offering contraceptive care serves 320 contraceptive patients in a year. The average Planned Parenthood health center serves 2,950 contraceptive patients in a year.

  • Many FQHC sites do not offer reproductive care -- in fact, in 2015, 40 percent of FQHC locations provided contraceptive care to fewer than 10 patients.

  • Nearly all Planned Parenthood health centers offer the full range of contraceptive method options, compared to only 52 percent of FQHC sites.

  • Eighty-three percent of Planned Parenthood health centers offer oral contraceptive supplies and refills on-site, compared to only 34 percent of FQHC sites.

  • More than three-quarters (81 percent) of Planned Parenthood health centers offer insertion of IUDs and implants on the same day as a patient’s initial appointment, compared to only 25 percent of FQHCs.  

  • Planned Parenthood health centers serve more contraceptive clients than any other publicly-funded health care provider, serving 32 percent of all contraceptive patients, even though Planned Parenthood health centers comprise just 6 percent of the provider network.

  • In 13 percent of the counties with a Planned Parenthood health center, there are no FQHCs offering contraceptive care.

  • In 26 percent of the counties with a Planned Parenthood health center, Planned Parenthood health centers serve five times as many contraceptive patients as FQHCs.

Excerpts from the report:

  • “FQHCs do not, and cannot, specialize in reproductive health care. They are instead charged with meeting the primary care needs of individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly. They must provide each patient with a broad range of services, from vaccinations to dental and vision care to mental health services.”

  • NOTE: According to previous research by Guttmacher, women still seek care at a reproductive health care provider, even if they have already been served by an FQHC. Six in ten women (59 percent) who had made a health care visit to another provider in the past year, also chose to go to a family planning clinic for contraceptive care.

  • “A new Guttmacher Institute analysis finds that [FQHCs] cannot be expected to deliver contraceptive care to the large numbers of women who currently rely on Planned Parenthood or other Title X-supported providers. In fact to suggest otherwise willfully oversimplifies the considerable challenges FQHCs would face in doing so, and ignore how these proposals put millions of U.S. women at very real risk of being unable to obtain the basic care they need.”

  • “FQHCs are an integral part of the publicly funded family planning effort in the United States, but it is unrealistic to expect these sites to serve the millions of women who currently rely on Planned parenthood health centers for high-quality contraceptive care.”

To read the full Guttmacher Policy Analysis, click HERE.

For many women, the care Planned Parenthood health centers provide IS their main source of primary care.  A previous Guttmacher study found that four in ten (41 percent) patients relied on a family planning clinic as their only recent source for health care. Planned Parenthood health centers serve the primary and preventive care needs of women of reproductive age, which includes well woman exams, breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, colposcopy, pap test, STD testing, treatment and vaccines, other women’s health services, and screenings for high blood pressure, obesity, and tobacco use.  

And the efforts to come up with alternatives to Planned Parenthood have been laughable at the state level. When lawmakers in Louisiana, Ohio, and Florida, tried to block access to Planned Parenthood in the past, they suggested women could go to “alternative” providers for reproductive health care, including dentists, food banks, nursing homes, ENTs, elementary schools, rehabs, and retirement homes.

The term “defunding” Planned Parenthood is a misnomer. Planned Parenthood does not get a blank check from the federal government, and it’s not a line item in the federal budget. Planned Parenthood receives reimbursements, just like hospitals and other health care organizations, for providing preventive care. Federal law already blocks federal funding from going to abortion services.