One in five American women receives care from a Planned Parenthood health center at some point in her life, and 90 percent of this care is preventive. Our services are basic and vital -- lifesaving screenings for cancer, blood pressure screening, testing for HIV, and testing and treatment for other sexually transmitted infections -- and many of our patients have nowhere else to get those services. Six in 10 women who access care from women's health centers consider them their main source of health care.
That may help explain why so many Americans are so outraged by the recent congressional attacks on family planning in general and on Planned Parenthood in particular. In the spending plan they sent to the Senate last month, the extreme leaders of the House of Representatives voted to kill the nation's 40-year-old family planning program, Title X. They also attached and adopted a highly political amendment that would bar Planned Parenthood from participating in any federal program.
The backers of these extreme measures claim they're fighting to cut the deficit and reduce abortion. But as countless journalists and observers have demonstrated, both claims are ludicrous.
Affordable birth control actually saves the taxpayers money -- about $4 for every dollar invested. As for abortion, federal funds have not covered abortion for decades, except in rare instances. In their zeal to strike a blow against Planned Parenthood, the House leaders helped pass a budget that would increase the number of unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion by denying women the ability to plan their pregnancies. Their budget proposal would also increase needless deaths from breast and cervical cancer, by cutting off access to tests that can detect those conditions while they are still treatable.
I don't exaggerate when I say that this bill is dangerous and inhumane. As written by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., the punish-Planned-Parenthood amendment would cut off 48 percent of our patients -- approximately 1.4 million people -- from their primary source of health care. It would also reverse a long-standing policy that protects Medicaid patients by letting them access family-planning services from any willing provider.
Barring Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding won't reduce the deficit and it won't improve the economy. It will simply leave more women with nowhere to turn for their basic health care needs. It's bad politics and bad policy -- bad for women and families across our nation, and bad for the long-term health of our economy.
Instead of stripping women of lifesaving preventive health care, the Senate needs to strip the new House majority of its delusions -- and stand up for women's health.
Cecile Richards is president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.